Minnesota will invest $16.6 million in federal grants to combat the statewide epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, officials announced Friday.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said the grants will be awarded over the next three years to more than 30 agencies across the state that focus on prevention and treatment for Minnesotans with substance abuse problems, including addictions to prescription pain medications and drugs such as heroin.
Overdose deaths from opioids have increased by 430 percent in Minnesota since 2000, according to the state Department of Human Services (DHS). Last year the state recorded 2,450 opioid overdoses, including 376 deaths. A separate tally maintained by the Star Tribune places the number at just over 400 deaths.
"This funding is critical to all our efforts to stop the terrible damage we've seen to individuals, families, and communities," Piper said in a written statement. "Minnesota — like the rest of the nation — is in the middle of an opioid crisis. No one needs to die of opioid overdose; too many lives have been lost already."
The new grants will fund a variety of initiatives to increase access to treatment, broaden the geographic reach of prevention efforts and help opioid users transition back to community life after treatment.
Several of the programs funded by the grants will expand the distribution of naloxone, a drug that can revive people who have overdosed.
Funding will also go toward launching a new website that will make it easier for the public and medical professionals to find treatment beds in real time. Other initiatives will expand treatment for pregnant women who have abused opioids and those coming out of prisons.