Today, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded nearly $14 million to 43 projects through its Investments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative, which aims to address Appalachia’s substance use disorder (SUD) crisis with investments in projects that create or expand services in the recovery ecosystem leading to workforce entry and re-entry.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin made the award announcement with ARC 2023 States’ Co-Chair Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, and grantees during a press conference at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky, in advance of ARC’s 2023 Annual Conference.
In addition to the nearly $14 million INSPIRE award package, Federal Co-Chair Manchin also announced additional funding for a $265,607 ARISE planning grant to the Upper Cumberland Development District that will strengthen a network of SUD recovery-to-work efforts across six Appalachian states—Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. In collaboration with their state partners, the Upper Cumberland Development District will use the ARISE funding to create a multi-state employer toolkit and long-term strategy to engage individuals across Appalachia in SUD recovery into the workforce.
“At ARC, we know that substance use disorder recovery isn’t a singular event, but a continuum. Both workforce training and ending the stigma surrounding substance use disorder are equally important in providing a renewed sense of hope and purpose to Appalachians in recovery,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “These INSPIRE grantees are doing the important work to remove all barriers to entry when it comes to recovery-to-work projects across the region, ensuring that all Appalachians have a chance at a bright future.”
These INSPIRE awardees will support the SUD recovery ecosystem in 11 Appalachian states by developing and deepening cross-sector recovery-focused partnerships, expanding peer recovery support networks, planning and implementing workforce training programs, strengthening community engagement and wraparound services, and more. Additionally, the projects will bring INSPIRE’s impact to 60 Appalachian counties for the first time, increasing the initiative’s reach to 83% of the region. Today’s announcement has brought INSPIRE to a grand total of nearly $42 million invested across 126 projects since the initiative launched in April 2021. Together, the projects will impact 349 Appalachian counties, improve 2,178 businesses and help prepare 9,772 individuals for new opportunities in the workforce.
“In Kentucky and across the Appalachian region, we believe all of our people are entitled to healthy and happy lives,” said ARC 2023 States’ Co-Chair, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “We want anyone battling addiction to know they are not alone, and they matter. No matter how long the road to recovery may be, Kentucky and leaders across the ARC region are here to support them.”
INSPIRE was informed by ARC’s Substance Use Disorder Advisory Council, which developed initial recommendations to address the disproportionate impact SUD had on the workforce in Appalachia compared to the rest of the country – a gap that has only widened since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to recently released CDC data featured in ARC’s report, Appalachian Diseases of Despair, overdose-related mortality rates for the region’s 25–54-year-old age group—those in their prime working years—were 72 percent higher in 2021 than for the same age group in the country’s non-Appalachian areas.
To help communities address this outsized impact, the Development District Association of Appalachia produced new INSPIRE-funded resources. The Recovery-to-Work (RTW) Ecosystem Builders Guide is an interactive toolkit for community practitioners interested in coordinating regional stakeholders, engaging employers, and providing support to businesses and workers in SUD recovery. The toolkit provides a step-by-step guide, templates for creating, building, or expanding a SUD ecosystem, and is designed to be a living document that will constantly be added to as new resources and evidence-based practices emerge.
ARC is expecting to issue a Notice of Solicitation for Applications (NOSA) for the next round of INSPIRE grant opportunities in January 2024. Additional information and resources are available at arc.gov/SUD.