Nationally, opioid-related deaths stood at more than 130 per day last year, according to federal data.
Washington state is set to receive $29.8 million in federal funding to fight opioid abuse, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
The award is the largest Washington has received from the federal government to combat the opioid epidemic, and builds on an $11 million grant the state received last year.
Of the money slated for Washington, $21.6 million will go toward increasing access to drugs that treat opioid addiction in addition to prevention efforts. Another $8.2 million will fund community health centers, academic institutions and rural groups that provide services to people suffering from substance abuse and mental-health issues.
In 2016, 694 people died of opioid-related overdoses, according to the Washington Department of Health. A majority of those deaths were prescription-opioid overdoses, followed by heroin overdoses and overdoses from Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. The rate of prescription-opioid overdoses has remained stable, but synthetic opioid overdose deaths have nearly doubled in the past decade.
“The epidemic is real and we are losing too many people,” said Michael Langer, acting director of the state Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery. “But we know what works, and this is one opportunity to fund it.”
Langer said he was thrilled with the news of the funding. Health-care providers came to his office on Wednesday for a meeting to discuss treatment for patients who are addicted to opioids or heroin. There were about 40 more providers at this meeting compared with last year, Langer added, because the agency has been able to expand its treatment work.
“We certainly have challenges in our state, but to get these additional resources to help, that’s what I am excited about,” he said.
The money is part of an allocation of more than $1 billion to all states that aims to fight the crisis, the department said in an emailed statement.
The funding announcement comes on the heels of a federal survey released last week that found the number of Americans who started using heroin in 2017 fell by about half compared with the previous year, while the number of those “misusing” opioids retreated for a second year, according to the health department. Opioid-related deaths stood at more than 130 per day last year, it said.