HUNTINGTON — The Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia has been awarded $321,653 by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Behavioral Health from the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant, according to a news release.

The SOR grants are supported by federal SOR funding, which originates from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. These funds will be used to establish a Southern West Virginia Collegiate Peer Recovery Network, offering peer recovery support services on seven higher education campuses.

“We are honored to receive this funding because this grant allows us to establish much-needed support services for our students at seven higher education institutions and to connect all of these efforts through the creation of an Advisory Council that will meet regularly,” said Sara Payne Scarbro, alliance operations council chair and associate vice president for external engagement at the Marshall University Research Corporation. “A college campus is a unique environment and this outreach funding will allow each campus to have its own skilled and trained peer recovery support specialist. The specialist will support students seeking recovery or who are currently in recovery so they can become productive adults and meet their educational attainment goals. This is exactly the kind of infrastructure needed in our West Virginia communities, and I am proud that the alliance is stepping to the plate to build this vital support structure.”

The alliance’s Southern West Virginia Collegiate Peer Recovery Network includes BridgeValley Community and Technology College, Bluefield State College, Concord University, Marshall University, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and West Virginia State University, working with behavioral health centers Prestera, Seneca Health Services and Southern Highlands Community Mental Health.

“Behavioral health centers provide valuable resources and services and we are proud to serve our area colleges and universities,” Prestera Center’s Chief Executive Officer Karen Yost said. “Individuals with substance use disorder or opioid use disorder can recover with the right treatment, services and support that meet their individualized needs. These peers will be able to connect college students with the treatment, help and support that is right for them.”

The alliance recognizes that collaboration between service providers and other organizations in delivering services, early intervention and peer recovery support services is vital in meeting individuals’ unique needs.

“We are putting together an expert team that will provide our current and future students with wrap-around services and support; plus through the advisory council, we can share best practices, current challenges and innovative approaches,” said Dr. Jo-Ann Robinson, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Bluefield State College. “We are pleased to participate in this important opportunity to support the pathway to recovery.”The Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia is a joint venture among West Virginia’s southern colleges and universities to better connect the educational resources and workforce training offered in southern West Virginia to promote the region, eliminate redundancies and share best practices, improve the quality of life for area residents, create jobs, keep West Virginia’s talent pool in the state and revitalize southern communities. Learn more about the alliance and its projects online at https://www.marshall.edu/aedswv/. For more information, call Scarbro at 304-696-2889.