Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking on the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, a state that has been hit hard by the devastating drug epidemic.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is working with public health nonprofit Vital Strategies on an initiative to prevent opioid overdoses in the U.S. On Tuesday, officials announced details on the project, which will put $10 million toward treatment strategies and law enforcement training over the next three years.
The funding comes just two months after Pennsylvania sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, a powerful and addictive opioid. Statistics show that addiction touches the lives of one in four Pennsylvanians. According to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, there were 4,267 fatal overdoses in the state in 2018, which equals an average of 12 lives lost per day. In 2017, an average of 15 people died each day from overdoses, amounting to 5,600 in total that year.
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Although $10 million was provided to Pennsylvania alone, Bloomberg's national initiative promises to spend $50 million across the U.S. Pennsylvania is the first state to receive the funds, according to whyy.org.
The foundation will share the first round of funding with more than 100 hospitals looking to join an “Opioid Action Learning Network,” where they will develop a strategy for treating opioids.
Secondly, the money will help support the Department of Corrections as it begins to offer both methadone and buprenorphine, which are medications that help manage withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, the money will be provided to a partnership between Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Association and the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition to train officers on harm-reduction methods, give them a refresher on how to use naloxone and educate them on fentanyl test strips to determine how potent the drugs are.
Daliah Heller of Vital Strategies told Whyy.org that Pennsylvania was the first state to receive funding because of its diverse geography, having both rural and urban environments.