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Virginia awarded nearly $16 million to continue addressing opioid crisis

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RICHMOND—Today, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia was awarded $15,809,989 in a State Opioid Response (SOR) grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These federal funds provide targeted assistance to states that are battling the ongoing opioid crisis. The Commonwealth has now received SAMHSA grants to combat the opioid epidemic for three consecutive years, reaching a total of $35,334,653.00.

“The complexities of addiction require interventions on every level, and we need all the resources we can get to perform those interventions,” said Governor Northam. “This federal funding is an essential component of our collective efforts with medical providers, community-based organizations, and other local stakeholders to combat the opioid crisis in Virginia. These resources will help ensure that treatment and support services reach every corner of the Commonwealth.”

SAMHSA issues these grants to support current state efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Like previous federal grants, the funds from this SOR opportunity will be distributed to localities to support prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts administered by Virginia’s Community Services Boards (CSB). In addition to expanding access to medically assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, Virginia has allocated funding to community prevention efforts, peer supports, and other recovery-based initiatives.

“These grant activities will help to develop infrastructure in our behavioral health system that meets people where they are, which is crucial,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD. “They will also assist us in addressing a broad range of substance use disorders, not just those tied to opioids.”

The grant also includes a research component in partnership with the Virginia Higher Education Collaborative to help CSBs provide evidence-based interventions tailored to their needs.

“Effectively fighting an epidemic of this magnitude takes local, state and federal cooperation,” said S. Hughes Melton, MD MBA, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner. “This grant will make possible more of the therapy, proven medications and prevention efforts that have made progress stemming the tide of Virginia’s opioid epidemic. With continued focus, we believe we can reverse these terrible trends.”

The Commonwealth has taken a number of steps in recent years to address opioid overdoses and increase treatment for Virginians with substance use disorders, including expanding access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone, revising opioid prescribing regulations, and making changes to the Prescription Monitoring Program. In 2017, Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) implemented a comprehensive addiction treatment benefit called the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program. The expansion of Medicaid in January 2019 will make these services available to many more Virginians who currently have no coverage for substance use disorder treatment.

In 2017, 1,227 Virginians died from opioid overdoses. In 2014, for the first time, more Virginians died from drug overdoses than car accidents.

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