Federal funds to help fight state’s opioid crisis
An influx of federal funding is helping the state combat its opioid crisis.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services a $1.92 million five-year grant, the state department announced recently.
The grant money will go toward implementing strategies to reduce overprescribing and prevent opioid overdoses. The grant will also educate and encourage professionals to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data, a tool used to track and analyze prescribing behavior.
“We have spent the past 18 months focused on COVID-19 and the importance of getting the vaccine to keep our loved ones safe,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani. “But we cannot lose sight of other critical issues in our communities — substance misuse is one of the most identified community health needs in our cities and towns.
“This grant will go a long way in supporting local health departments and their implementation of these life-saving strategies,” she said.
To implement these strategies, graduate students from health profession programs will work with local health districts and departments. The grant funds will help DMHAS build partnerships with stakeholders, as well as educate prescribers, pharmacists and patients statewide, DMHAS said in a press release.
So far this year, 711 of the 877 fatal overdoses involved opioids, according to state data as of Sept. 16.
The data shows 179 overdoses related to prescription opioids, the most including methadone, oxycodone and tramadol. The state data did not clarify whether these drugs came from legitimate prescriptions or if they were obtained from the streets.
According to state data, 483 overdoses involved fentanyl, which can be obtained as a prescription, and 49 people suffered heroin overdoses so far this year.
State mental health department Acting Commissioner Nancy Navarretta said the funds will give the state a chance to “enhance our data-driven public health approach to prevent opioid overdoses and save lives.
“The best ways to address the non-medical use of prescription drugs are to increase awareness and reduce access,” she added.
The department will hosta free webinar series to discuss the state’s response to the opioid crisis. The first session is scheduled for noon Oct. 19 and will be an overview of opioid services.
The next session is set for Nov. 12 and will discuss prevention. On Dec. 6, the series will discuss harm reduction, and then criminal justice efforts on Jan. 7.
Jan. 20 will be the last session and will discuss women’s services.
Those struggling with substance abuse issues can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for a free and confidential treatment referral or for more information.