(WHTM) — Opioid abuse hits some communities harder than others. Now, Midstate groups are getting state funding to fight addiction and overdose deaths in marginalized communities.

UPMC Pinnacle Hospitals received a little over $200,000 from the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP). The health system said this will help UPMC expand access to addiction and substance use disorder care.

“Access to care keeps bubbling to the top as a priority,” said Theresa Sellers, Director of Community Health Initiatives for UPMC in Central PA.

Work to tackle health disparities, particularly in access to substance use disorder treatment, has been going on for years.

“It all came out of that community health needs assessment and looking at people that did not have access to care for addiction treatment,” Sellers said.

When it comes to substance use disorder, UPMC says communities of color and rural communities often struggle to access treatment.

“They have obstacles, they can’t get here, so transportation issues to name one,” Sellers said.

In 2022, Black Pennsylvanians died of an overdose at a rate more than twice as high as white Pennsylvanians, according to data from the Department of Health.

“I would say a barriers to treatment for many of these patients is a deep distrust of the medical community,” said Greg Swartzentruber, medical director of UPMC’s Center for Addiction Recovery.

Swartzentruber and Sellers have been working together to get care to the people who need it.

“We have the mobile unit, which is specifically targeted at disadvantaged populations,” Swartzentruber said.

Now, the two can expand their work, thanks to a $219,000 grant in connection with the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation.

“Unfortunately the need is there. But it does give us the flexibility to meet the needs of folks who really just do not have transportation to get to our clinic, or maybe even one of the hospitals,” said Mindy Reighard, manager of grants and contracts at UPMC Pinnacle Foundation.

The grant money will go towards buying a second mobile unit and hiring another community health worker.

“They develop a rapport with potential patients,” Reighard said.

Sellers said, “Building that relationship…That’s vital.”

Sellers said the grant will help them build more of those relationships — one more step in fighting overdose deaths and a step closer to their ultimate goal.

“Just to improve quality of life. To let them know that somebody cares and somebody’s willing to walk this walk with them,” she said.

Eighteen other organizations received grant funding, including PA Counseling Services, which also serves the Midstate. In total, the state gave out more than $6 million in grants.