Arizona will get more than $20 million in State Opioid Response grant funds from the federal government, part of $1.8 billion in grants the Trump administration said it was releasing to states earlier this month.
The grants, now in their second year, are designed to give states the flexibility to “meet the needs of their states” as they battle the opioid crisis, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a conference call with reporters.
“That can mean everything from expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment in criminal justice settings or in rural areas, be it telemedicine; to youth-focused, community-based prevention efforts; recovery supports, like employment coaching; and support for the distribution of naloxone,” Azar said.
The sole requirement is that states guarantee access to medication-assisted treatment at federally funded providers.
This is the second year Arizona has received $20 million in the first round of grants from the SOR fund, that can be used for opioid treatment, prevention and other recovery efforts. Last year, the state got a $10 million supplemental grant as well.
While state officials were unavailable to comment, the Bipartisan Policy Center reported earlier this year that most of Arizona’s SOR funding in 2018 went toward recovery and treatment, with a goal of providing services to 16,476 individuals over two years.
Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in 2017 in response to the skyrocketing number of opioid overdoses in the state. That emergency was lifted with the 2018 passage of the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which called for better reporting and tighter restrictions on opioid prescriptions.
Kam Gandhi, executive director of the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy, said his agency is already seeing progress in a drop in prescription volume and pill count, which means fewer drugs for consumption.
“There’s a long way to go to see a significant improvement, but we are seeing some traction in that direction,” Gandhi said.
He encourages state health professionals to practice “smart prescribing” as one way to reduce the drug epidemic.
During a White House announcement of the grant, President Donald Trump said the government has “done a really good job with opioids and getting people to stop using them and prescribing them.”
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