Virginia getting additional $9.7 million grant to fight opioid crisis

(Photo: Patrick Sison, AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) -- Governor Ralph Northam has announced that Virginia got another nearly $10 million in federal grant funding to help fight the opioid epidemic.

This is the second consecutive year that the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) received a State Targeted Response Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The opioid crisis has had a devastating toll on communities across the Commonwealth and there are still too many Virginia families losing loved ones to addiction and overdose," said Governor Northam. "We know that for many Virginians, CSBs are the primary provider of mental health services and substance abuse treatment. With these grant funds, we can continue to build upon the important partnerships between public safety and public health officials, and also provide the critical medications, counseling and support services to help individuals in recovery."

Northam said the $9.7 million grant will be used to continue efforts from the previous year to purchase medication, support medical staff necessary to prescribe and oversee clinical treatment, and to remove barriers to accessing treatment, such as transportation.

These funds will also help provide the counseling and case management necessary to help individuals with opioid addiction stabilize their lives and begin the process of recovery.

"Efforts made possible by this grant will help Virginia take the fight against the opioid crisis directly to local communities," said Dr. Hughes Melton, DBHDS Commissioner. "We will be able to provide more therapy and proven medications to treat people struggling with addiction and develop better strategies for communities to prevent substance abuse before it even starts."

This year’s grant permits additional resources to be directed toward prevention of opioid use through strengthening existing local community coalitions that have formed across the Commonwealth to address addiction and rising drug overdose rates.

In 2017, more than 1,200 Virginians died from opioid overdoses, including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl.

Virginia emergency departments reported more than 10,000 visits for opioid and heroin overdose treatment, and EMS workers reported more than 4,000 uses of naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug.

Grant funds will be used to fight the opioid epidemic in the following ways:

  • DBHDS will allocate $6.1 million of the total grant funds to 25 locally run community services boards—the organizations that are responsible for providing community-based behavioral health services. This will increase access to medically assisted treatment (MAT), which is the evidence-based gold standard for treatment of opioid addiction.
  • $1.8 million will be used to support new and existing evidence-based strategic prevention framework grantees. These grantees, all of which are local community coalitions, will address community gaps to prevent further drug and heroin abuse. The prevention funding will also support media campaigns in communities most impacted by the overdose crisis in Virginia.
  • The remaining funding will support the development of partnerships with hospitals that will connect individuals who overdose with peers in recovery as well as continued funding of warm lines that offer peer support and information to callers.

The 25 CSBs were selected as part of the grant application, based on statistical measures of need. Amounts to each community are currently being determined and will be based on specific needs as assessed by overdose rates and other factors.

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