Appalachian Regional Commission Issue Brief Offers Practical Recommendations to Address Opioid Misuse

Recovery-to-Work Listening Sessions Explore Workforce Challenges

WASHIGTON, D.C., April 17, 2019—Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) released Health Disparities Related to Opioid Misuse in Appalachia, an issue brief offering strategies, resources, and recommendations to help Appalachian communities address opioid misuse and overdose deaths.

Noting that four Appalachian states—West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky—have among the highest rates of drug overdose in the country, the brief focuses on five specific recommendations. These include:

  • Preventing opioid misuse;
  • Increasing access to treatment for opioid use disorder;
  • Implementing harm reduction strategies to reduce the consequences of opioid use disorder;
  • Supporting long-term recovery of opioid use disorder; and
  • Implementing community-based solutions to prevent substance misuse.

Each of these recommendations includes practical strategies and replicable best practices for communities to implement.

“While our nation’s opioid crisis seems to have most significantly impacted Appalachia, I believe the Region can be known as a leader in innovative solutions to this pervasive threat to communities throughout our country,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “I am pleased to see such efforts ongoing in the Region, and I hope that the information provided in this brief will help other communities as they work to strengthen their response to this epidemic.”

Health Disparities Related to Opioid Misuse in Appalachia is one of three capstone issue briefs released today by the Appalachian Regional Commission and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This series of briefs was developed as part of a health research initiative, Creating a Culture of Health in Appalachia: Disparities and Bright Spots. The first Health Disparities report documented the dramatic health disparities in Appalachia compared to the rest of the nation. The second report identified “bright spots”—Appalachian areas that scored much better than expected given the economic, resource and other challenges they face. The third report offered a deep dive into 10 representative bright spots counties. The Bright Spots project also includes an interactive website,, where users can explore extensive county-level health data for the entire region.

To better understand the impact that the substance abuse crisis is having on economic and workforce opportunities across Appalachia, ARC has hosted five public Listening Sessions in Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky. These listening sessions explore how communities currently engage in substance abuse treatment and recovery programs, job placement strategies, employment opportunities, and other wrap-around services that support an individual’s long-term recovery while getting them back into the workforce as part of a comprehensive recovery ecosystem. A sixth Recovery-to-Work Listening Session will be held on Thursday, April 18, in Beckley, West Virginia.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. Support for this research project was provided by RWJF.