North Carolina will receive $27 million over the next year to fight the state’s opioid epidemic by getting people off opioids and preventing others from misusing them, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. Grants include $23 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and $4 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will administer both grants.
In July, Governor Cooper issued an executive order directing DHHS to seek federal prevention and treatment funds to combat the crisis.
“Preventing opioid misuse and treating addiction save lives and we must fight harder against substance use disorder,” Governor Cooper said. “These grants will help prevent overdose deaths, provide resources to families, and provide effective treatment for those struggling with opioids.”
“Securing these grants is an important step in fighting the opioid epidemic, but this is only one part of the solution,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “An opioid use disorder is a chronic disease and we need to make sure there is sustainable funding for people to have ongoing, affordable access to care.”
The $23 million in SAMHSA funds are part of the agency’s State Opioid Response Grants, which focus on treatment and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through prevention. A previous SAMHSA grant allowed more than 5,700 people to get care previously not available to them. North Carolina has 70 opioid treatment programs that provide medication-assisted treatment to 20,000 people each day.
The State Opioid Response grant will also include a pilot program to work with families whose children are at risk of out-of-home placement due to parental substance use, and an initiative with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety to help individuals re-entering communities from jail or prison to begin medication-assisted treatment. Funds will also be provided to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to augment medication-assisted treatment and trauma-informed care, increase community awareness and implement a rapid response team to assist individuals in accessing care.
The $4 million, one-year grant awarded by the CDC will strengthen statewide monitoring of the opioid epidemic and local responses to it. Approximately $2 million of these funds will go to local health departments in counties facing the highest burden of opioid deaths to support community overdose prevention strategies. The CDC grant will also support training for first responders and medical students, as well as education campaigns and technical assistance for local partners.
The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has also awarded Rural Communities Opioid Response funding for rural communities to develop plans for prevention, treatment and recovery interventions to reduce opioid overdoses. Communities applied as part of consortiums of organizations, and four consortiums in North Carolina were awarded grants of $200,000 each. Recipients are Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers and Western North Carolina AIDs Project, Inc., both based in Buncombe County; Coastlands Ministries based in Wilkes County; and Metropolitan Community Health based in Beaufort County.
In 2017, an estimated 1,683 deaths in North Carolina were attributed to unintentional opioid overdoses. The number of unintentional overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids and illicit opioids such as heroin and fentanyl in 2017, was more than 10 times higher than in 1999.
Many of the strategies that will be implemented using these funds are part of the NC Opioid Action Plan, which lays out key strategies to reduce the burden of opioid overdose deaths.