TALLAHASSEE -- In battling the heroin and opioid epidemic, $94 million will be invested in addiction treatment centers nationwide, including $3 million to Florida, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday.
Manatee County Rural Health Services received $325,000 of the allocated grant money, and facilities in Tampa and Clearwater received money as well. Pamela Roshell, regional director of HHS, said the new money was made available as the nation has watched overdoses increase, overtaking vehicle accidents for leading cause of injury death in the U.S.
"The epidemic that we've seen and continued to see ... it is definitely an increasing public health issue," Roshell said.
The funding, meant to both prevent overdose deaths and provide treatment to addicts, will focus on three aspects of opioid addiction:
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Helping health professionals make informed prescribing decisions.
Increasing the use of naloxone, a medication that prevents death to those suffering an opioid overdose.
Expanding the use of medication assisted treatment.
Roshell said the money will help hire 800 more
treatment providers nationwide and help 124,000 more patients who suffer from addiction disorders. About 4.5 million people in the United States used non-medical prescription pain relievers in 2013, and an estimated 289,000 were current heroin users. About 1.3 million people received behavioral health services in 2014.
"This will help close the gap of those who need treatment and can't afford it," Roshell said.
Stephanie McCladdie, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services regional administrator, said she believes expanding access to medication assisted treatment, or MAT, is the most important of the three priorities.
That treatment is somewhat controversial, since it involves having addicts take medication regularly to curb their addictions. But many in the addiction treatment field have come around to the idea, as it has a higher success rate when combined with behavioral treatment than other treatment methods.
"It has been controversial in certain parts of the country, but it is an evidence-based practice," McCladdie said.
Nine health care centers in Florida were awarded a total of $3,087,499 in non-recurring grant money.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby