Grant coordinator hired to help fight opioids

PLATTSBURGH — Katie Smith is here to help North Country workers battle through barriers set by the opioid crisis.

The North Country Workforce Development Board was recently awarded a $459,000 Opioid National Dislocated Worker Grant for the OneWorkSource Centers of Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

Smith was hired as opioid grant coordinator to help those affected by the opioid crisis re-enter the workforce.

“This grant is the beginning of a regional effort to curb the effects of opioid addiction in the North Country,” a OneWorkSource press release says.

“It specifically targets workers in helping them in their recovery.”

Bridging the gap

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says more than 130 people die each day via opioid overdose in the United States.

“The misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare,” the release said.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year.”

Originally from Fort Covington, Smith earned her business degree from Ohio’s Devry University and recently worked for local Social Services foster care and public assistance units.

It was in those latest roles that she saw the local effects of the opioid crisis.

“And the kind of barriers that it can put up,” she added. “The grant that I have received, and my job, provide a unique opportunity to break down those barriers and bridge that gap in helping those individuals get reintegrated back into the workforce.”

Flexibility

To do so, Smith said, the funding — a two-year grant program — can be used for supportive, career and training services.

That allows her to work with health care providers, community-based organizations and employers to get those who have been affected by the crisis, both directly and indirectly, into local jobs.

But Smith will also assist businesses that already have employees who struggle with addiction to ensure that those employees are successful in their recoveries and in holding their positions, the release said.

She will shift between the OneWorkSource Centers in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.

Smith said she plans to be at the offices in Clinton and Franklin counties twice a week and the Essex County office once per week.

But the specific days aren’t set in stone, she said.

“The days I’ll try to keep the same, but they might vary based on where I am needed,” Smith said. “I want to be flexible for the people that I’m helping.

“I definitely want to be able to serve these three counties as much as I can, so flexibility is a big part of that.”

Networking

Smith has been on the job since the end of the April and, in that short time, has been networking with area organizations “to show what my grant can do to help,” she said.

And so far, so good.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is pretty excited,” she added.

Smith has just started to book appointments and is excited for the level of interest and referrals she has received thus far.

To learn more, reach her at katie@oneworksource.com or 518-219-2371.

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