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Partnerships

Buy-in from multiple stakeholders can be critical for establishing and maintaining support for substance use disorder (SUD) programs. Key program partners may include:

  • Law enforcement
  • Emergency medical services (EMS)
  • Fire departments
  • Court system
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Pharmacies
  • Public health agencies
  • Recovery groups
  • Local schools, colleges, and universities
  • Housing agencies
  • Transportation services
  • Local social and welfare organizations
  • Job training programs
  • Churches and faith-based organizations
  • SUD-focused organizations or services, such as syringe services programs

Securing buy-in from leadership of local law enforcement, fire departments, and EMS may be critical for programs focused on opioid use disorder and overdose response. EMS personnel are often first responders in rural communities in the event of an overdose or other substance-related medical emergency. If a patient is experiencing an overdose, first responders can administer naloxone in an attempt to save the patient's life. Rural SUD programs can offer training and supplies to law enforcement, fire, and EMS personnel to support rapid treatment and naloxone administration.

Rural programs also often work closely with hospitals and clinics in their community. It may be helpful to ask partners supporting the program to sign Memoranda of Understanding. Establishing formal partnerships can help institutionalize naloxone administration protocols, data collection efforts, and other program elements in the infrastructure of all participating organizations.

Some rural SUD prevention and treatment programs may increase access to care by implementing a service integration model to link patients with other helpful resources or existing programs. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed service integration guidelines for syringe service programs. The primary aim of these programs is to provide people who inject drugs with clean syringes, but they can also connect patients with educational information, sexually transmitted infection and tuberculosis screenings, naloxone, SUD treatment referrals, and more.