Appalachian Regional Commission Seats Substance Abuse Advisory Council

According to Opioids in Appalachia: The Role of Counties in Reversing a Regional Epidemic, a new report issued today by the National Association of Counties (NaCO) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the 2017 death rate for opioid overdoses in Appalachian counties was an astounding 72 percent higher than non-Appalachian counties.

Since December, ARC has hosted six regional Recovery to Work Listening Sessions, each focusing on the role employment has in successful long term recovery. During the week of May 6, 2019, ARC announced the seating of the Substance Abuse Advisory Council (SAAC), a 24-member volunteer advisory group of leaders from law enforcement, recovery services, health, economic development, private industry, education, state government and other sectors. The SAAC will develop recommendations for ARC to consider as part of a strategic plan to build and strengthen a recovery ecosystem in Appalachian communities by drawing on their own expertise, as well as community insight gathered during the listening sessions.

Today, the SAAC wrapped up their inaugural meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee. Among the Council’s first tasks was to identify key needs in building a recovery ecosystem. This includes focused services to support those in recovery as they re-enter the workforce, as well as guidance to employers for how to successfully help these workers to be productive and professional. Other topics of discussion included the need for holistic strategies to help those in recovery access housing, transportation, and broadband.

“By focusing on the recovery ecosystem, which supports those in long-term recovery as they move back to the workforce, the Substance Abuse Advisory Council will be addressing an important piece of the overarching effort to combat substance use disorder in our Region,” said ARC Federal Co –Chair Tim Thomas.

The Council will to continue developing recommendations, which will then be formally presented to ARC later in the fall. More information about the Council, as well as other ARC work on this issue, is available at