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Project Renew

  • Need: To reduce deaths due to opioid overdose in rural southeast West Virginia.
  • Intervention: Project Renew trained and certified first responders, healthcare staff, and laypeople in naloxone administration.
  • Results: Project Renew has saved 10 lives since its inception.


According to 2016 CDC data, West Virginia had the highest rate of death due to drug overdose in the country, with an age-adjusted 52 deaths per 100,000 people. Community Connections, Inc., a nonprofit corporation in Princeton, West Virginia, worked to reduce these deaths through Project Renew. Project Renew served the rural counties of McDowell, Mercer, and Wyoming, which were among the top 6 counties in the state for number of overdose deaths.

Project Renew was named with two goals in mind: renewing life into those who have experienced an overdose and renewing the rapport between law enforcement and the community. Program coordinators became Certified Naloxone Trainers and were able to train and certify first responders, healthcare staff, and laypeople.

Project Renew logo

Project Renew received funding from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program.

Services offered

  • Trained first responders on naloxone use
  • Provided education to nurses and other healthcare staff
  • Provided layperson certification and Narcan (naloxone in a nasal spray) distribution
  • Distributed wallet-sized information cards called "rack cards" to first responders
  • Distributed "Are you at risk for opioid overdose?" cards to healthcare facilities


Since it began, Project Renew has saved 10 lives through Narcan.

In 2015, Project Renew received the Outstanding Community-Police Partnership Initiative award from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

In August 2016, Project Renew held an event for Overdose Awareness Day. Representatives from regional treatment facilities set up information booths so that community members could learn about available resources.

Overdose Awareness Day

In June 2017, Community Connections, Inc. presented Project Renew during the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) Reducing Rural Opioid Overdoses: Lessons Learned from the Rural Opioid Overdose Reversal Grant Program webinar.


The project faced initial opposition from many groups, including doctors who refused to write prescriptions for naloxone, pharmacists who refused to fill naloxone prescriptions, and law enforcement who did not want to carry and administer naloxone. Much of this opposition came from stigma associated with substance abuse. Building relationships with prescribers and local first responders was imperative so that they fully understood the program's benefits as well as modified their policies to reflect best practices.

Program coordinators were able to win over law enforcement and other parties by reminding them that West Virginia's Good Samaritan laws protect those who administer naloxone from lawsuits and that the officers could now add "naloxone-certified" to their resumes.

Other barriers included cost and the training involved. The cost of Narcan for one year for the three counties was around $16,000. This cost doesn't include the other contents in the kit, such as one-way-valve CPR masks, rubber gloves, stick-proof gloves (to protect first responders from accidental needle stick), rack cards, and treatment information for patients and their loved ones.

Rough terrain was a barrier not only for first responders reaching victims of overdose but also for people going into different communities to provide training. Program coordinators offered an online training option to those areas where it would be difficult to train in person.


Find partners who will advocate for your program.

Community Connections, Inc. was able to address the initial opposition of its project through partners like the West Virginia Department of Justice (WV DOJ). The WV DOJ hosted a media event announcing that the State Police would partner with Community Connections, Inc. After the State Police got on board, the Sheriff's Department and the City Police followed suit.

Project Renew media event

Another important partner was the Bluefield State College, where program coordinators were able to train and certify over 200 RN graduates. Students learned about overdose referral as well as patient education and treatment referral. In addition, program coordinators wrote an overdose protocol so that trainees knew how to address any overdoses that happened on campus.

The West Virginia Bureau of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, the federally designated state authority for mental health and substance abuse, released an initiative (1.884.HELP4WV) at the same time that Project Renew received the FORHP grant. The bureau told program coordinators that anyone who called the HELP4WV number would be guaranteed a bed in a treatment facility.

Available resources, courtesy of Community Connections, Inc.:

Training curriculum and presentations:

Handouts for laypeople:

Contact Information

Kathrn Kandas, Program Director
Community Connections, Inc.

Community and faith-based initiatives
Health workforce education and training
Illicit drug use
Prescription drug abuse

States served
West Virginia

Date added
July 17, 2017

Date updated or reviewed
July 31, 2018

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.