The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs announced more than $333 million in awards Friday to help communities affected by the opioid crisis, including $6.1 million for public safety and health professionals in southern Ohio.
“The opioid epidemic has ravaged countless communities and tragically shattered too many lives. While we have seen some progress, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys’ community remain fully committed to working with our state and local partners to combat this complex and evolving challenge,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David M. DeVillers (pictured above). “The awards announced today support an array of activities designed to reduce the harm inflicted by these dangerous drugs.”
A breakdown of the $6.1 million in awards shows that the grants will be used to help law enforcement officers and treatment professionals in Ohio counties experiencing the highest rates of opioid overdoses. Montgomery County, for instance, received $400,000 to help create “juvenile drug treatment court programs for youth in the justice system who have substance abuse issues.”
According to the Ohio Department of Health, Montgomery Count experienced 61 unintentional drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people between 2013 and 2018—the highest of any county in the state. A map provided by the Ohio Department of Health shows that counties in the southern portions of the state were hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic.
DeVillers said that an average of 130 Americans are dying from opioid-related overdoses everyday, which is why the Justice Department has made “fighting addiction to opioids—including heroin and fentanyl—a national priority.”
“The Trump Administration is providing critical funding for a wide range of activities—from preventive services and comprehensive treatment to recovery assistance, forensic science services and research—to help save lives and break the cycle of addiction and crime,” his office said in a press release.
Ohio had the second highest rate of opioid-related drug overdose deaths in the nation in 2017. There were 4,293 reported deaths, a rate of 39.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2018, 3,764 Ohioans died from unintentional drug overdoses, a decrease in 22.7 percent from 2017 and the lowest overdose death rate since 2015, reports the Ohio Department of Health. Illicit fentanyl or fentanyl analogs were involved in 72.6 percent of 2018 overdose deaths.
The National Association of Attorneys General endorsed Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) “FIGHT Fentanyl Act” last week, which would permanently list fentanyl-related substances as criminally scheduled drugs.
“I appreciate Ohio Attorney General Yost and Michigan Attorney General Nessel leading all of our country’s attorneys general in urging Congress to pass the FIGHT Fentanyl Act, my bipartisan legislation to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances in the United States,” Portman said in a statement. “Fentanyl knows no zip code and is devastating individuals and families all across the country. This bipartisan legislation is vital to our efforts to keep fentanyl out of our communities and I urge my colleagues in Congress listen to our attorneys general and join in supporting this common-sense legislation.”
President Donald Trump announced in November that he donated his third-quarter salary to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health to “continue the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis.”
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