LA Department of Health Gets Grant to Address Opioid Crisis

The State now has more funding to fight the opioid epidemic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded the Louisiana Department of Health a grant to target and reduce opioid abuse across the state. The State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant is funded at $8,167,971 a year for two years. 

Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, said the state is in the midst of an opioid crisis and the grant will help address the problem.

“Louisiana averages 122 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. This is a significant concern because 80 percent of heroin users reported starting out misusing prescription opioid medications,” said Gee. “Additionally, by mid-year 2016, in both East Baton Rouge and Orleans parishes, narcotic overdose deaths surpassed homicide deaths.” 

The Louisiana Department of Health, Office of Behavioral Health will administer the grant which will be used to enhance existing statewide prevention, treatment, and recovery services that are available to individuals who are addicted to opioids, or who are at risk for opioid addiction or opioid abuse or misuse.

Initiatives funded by the grant include: 

• Implement opioid prevention strategies, including a mass-media educational campaign targeted to those who are at risk for an opioid disorder, and healthcare provider training.

• Develop an intervention strategy that focuses on Naloxone education and distribution of this medication to target populations.

• At the local level, build treatment capacity within the existing networks of behavioral health providers. The goal is to provide access to evidence-based treatments, particularly Medication Assisted Treatment, and education and training on non-opioid alternatives. Funding will be directed to the state’s 10 local opioid treatment programs.

• Increase treatment and prevention capacity for people with opioid addictions or disorders through funding that will be directed to the state’s 10 local human service districts/authorities.

• Partner with the Department of Corrections to provide opioid treatment services for offenders who participate in re-entry-programs at two designated prison facilities. These programs will identify at-risk offenders nine months prior to release, and will provide individualized treatment and robust discharge planning to ensure they continue treatment after leaving prison.

“More than 75 percent of offenders have a substance use disorder, and they are at high risk of engaging in substance use unless provided treatment prior to release,” said James M. Le Blanc, Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary. “We are optimistic these programs will result in a decrease in substance use-related crimes, and will see fewer offenders return to prison, thus saving taxpayers money, and reducing the number of crime victims.” 

“This grant allows us to continue our focus on statewide planning and implementation for opioid education, prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. We’re looking forward to working with our partners across the state to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions, and to reduce opioid abuse,” said Dr. Janice Petersen, Louisiana Department of Health’s principal investigator for this grant.