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‘We can be that one person that someone has for support’: Red Project providing treatment in rural areas

Red Project says from April 2020 to April 2021 there were over 100,000 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.
Posted at 7:12 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 22:46:22-05

ALLEGAN, Mich. — The opioid epidemic continues to hit the country hard, including communities in West Michigan. According to the Red Project, between April 2020 to April 2021, there were 100,000 opioid-overdose deaths.

“It is heartbreaking. Everyone knows someone who’s struggled with a substance use disorder. Everyone. These are all someone’s family member,” said Catherine Kelly during an interview on Wednesday. “That’s why it’s important to me so that we are supporting those people.”

Kelly, who’s a recovery coach with the Red Project, said the numbers continue to climb even in rural communities.

“In rural counties, it’s looking a lot like it does here,” she said. “In those counties where there’s not access to Naloxone, there’s not access to an SSP like Red Project; you can see that those overdose rates are higher because they don’t have the same access to harm-reduction treatments.”

So, the Red Project is bringing the treatment to rural communities, driving their mobile health unit 30 minutes south on US-131 to Allegan. Right now, they’re providing recovery coaching and overdose education.

“So, Red Project provides syringe access,” Kelly said. “We provide access to period products, condom distribution. We often have food on the van. Pretty much anything we can find to give folks we will give them.”

READ MORE: Michigan health department seeks racial equity consultant to combat opioid crisis

They also give away winter clothing as well, she said.

So far, the mobile health unit has been in Allegan the last two Tuesdays, stationing themselves in a parking lot on Water and Cutler streets near the downtown area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

She added that most of their services are free.

“Recovery coaching services, and for all of Red Project services, they are free. We are funded through local PIHPs,” Kelly said. “For the medications for opioid use disorder, they will take Medicaid. It’ll be very accessible for folks. And, one of the services that I can provide through recovery coaching is linkage to insurance.”

She said that at the Red Project they’re all about removing any barriers that people may have in order to get the treatment they need. If they can’t get it in Grand Rapids, they’ll gladly bring it to them in their community.

“There are a lot of people who struggle with substance use disorder that don’t have anyone in their lives that they can go to for support,” Kelly said. “So, when we can get out there in those communities, we can be that one person that someone has for support, which is incredibly impactful.”

***The Red Project is taking donations for winter clothing. For more information email them at or call 616-456-9063***

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