BALTIMORE (March 4, 2021) – Maryland Department of Labor (Labor) Secretary Tiffany P. Robinson today announced that the department will begin accepting applications for the Opioid Workforce Innovation Fund (OWIF). OWIF provides support to local organizations as they develop innovative solutions that lead to improved employment outcomes for individuals and businesses impacted by the opioid crisis.
Over $1 million will be invested into the second round of OWIF, which comes as a result of a flourishing partnership with the Maryland Department of Health. Grant awards are capped at $75,000 and over 200 individuals are expected to receive training or other services over a two-year period.
“Having an opportunity for employment can make a difference for folks recovering from substance use disorders, and rebuilding their lives,” said Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford, Chair of the Maryland Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, and the Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council. “This collaborative initiative by the Maryland Department of Labor, Maryland Department of Health, and Opioid Operational Command Center demonstrates the administration’s commitment to building an environment where folks can make meaningful changes to succeed, despite their past challenges, and consequences of the opioid epidemic.”
Over $2.1 million has been invested into OWIF to date, which has led to nearly 200 Marylanders being placed into employment opportunities and more than 330 individuals earning an industry-recognized certification or credential.
“The Opioid Workforce Innovation Fund has been a source of hope and healing for hundreds of Marylanders who have been impacted by the opioid crisis,” said Secretary Robinson. “This second round of funding provides critical workforce and behavioral health services to support Marylanders in their long-term and sustainable recovery. We are grateful to our state partners for providing Labor with the opportunity to help Marylanders acquire the skills, tools, and support they need to succeed.”
Created in 2019 with funding from the United States Department of Labor, OWIF is a competitive grant fund intended to seed the implementation of new and promising ideas, or to adopt proven strategies at the systems or service delivery level. Through investments in innovative, industry-driven workforce programs, OWIF will further address the economic and health impacts of widespread opioid use disorder.
“Mental and behavioral health support are vital even in the best of times,” said Acting Maryland Department of Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “During this unprecedented time, workforce preparedness and employment are critical contributors to stability and well-being, especially for those impacted by the opioid crisis.”
Successful OWIF applicants will build connections between the workforce and behavioral health systems to support Maryland jobseekers in eliminating barriers to employment and preparing for, securing, and retaining employment in high-demand industries and occupations. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be reviewed by a cross-agency team from the Maryland Departments of Labor and Health.
“Vocational programs provide skills that are fundamental to success in life and in recovery,” said Executive Director of the Opioid Operational Command Center Steve Schuh. “We are thrilled that OWIF continues to support vocational programs that position Marylanders for better futures.”