State receives $8M to fight opioid misuse

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health has received an $8 million federal grant over a two-year period to continue to combat opioid misuse in the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week announced it awarded more than $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help states combat the crisis in the nation.

“No state is immune from this public health issue,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, director of the Hawaii Department of Health. “This grant provides another step in a positive direction for Hawaii to implement HHS’ comprehensive five-pronged strategy to address opioid misuse across our islands.”

According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , which is a part of HHS, Americans initiating heroin use dropped by around half from 2016 to 2017. The number of Americans misusing opioids also dropped for the second year in a row, and the number receiving specialty treatment for heroin use increased.

From January 2017 through August 2018, the amount of opioids prescribed in America has dropped by 21 percent. During the same period, the number of prescriptions filled for naloxone, used to counter opioid addiction, has increased 264 percent, while the number of prescriptions for buprenorphine, one form of medication-assisted treatment, has risen 16 percent.

Hawaii’s opioid death rates have historically been lower than the national rate. In 2016, there were 77 opioid-related overdose deaths­­­ in Hawaii—a rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 persons. The national rate is 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons.

“We should not look at these figures and let our guard down; we must continue the momentum that we have begun in Hawaii,” warned Edward Mersereau, chief of DOH’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.

This is a second round of federal funding for Hawaii. The health department received a $4 million Opioid State Targeted Response (STR) grant, which was part of a program created by the 21st Century Cures Act. The grant program is administered by SAMHSA within HHS.

The SAMHSA grant has been used to successfully launch a collaborative, statewide effort to develop the Hawaii Opioid Initiative action plan, which was designed to be a “living document.” It offers a comprehensive approach to aggressively counteract the misuse of opioids and other prevalent drugs in Hawaii.

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