With overdose deaths from painkillers, or opioids, on the rise, the federal government is giving $3.8 million to health centers in Missouri and Kansas to combat the epidemic.
The grants are among $94 million the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding to 271 health centers nationwide to address the abuse of opioids.
“Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States,” Stephene Moore, regional director of HHS, told reporters Friday in a conference call. “That’s even more than deaths from car crashes.”
In 2014, nearly 150 people died every month from drug overdoses in HHS’s Region VII, which embraces Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, according to Moore.
Moore said the grants aim to help health providers focus on three key areas: 1) improving opioid prescribing practices; 2) increasing the use of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids; and 3) increasing the number of patients with access to medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
In Kansas, four health centers received grants:
- Center for Health & Wellness, Wichita, $325,000
- Gracemed Health Clinic, Wichita, $379,167
- Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas Inc., Pittsburg, $325,000
- United Methodist Western Kansas Mexican-American Ministries Inc., Garden City, $379,167
In Missouri, seven health centers received grants:
- Advocates For A Healthy Community Inc., Springfield, $406,250
- Affinia Healthcare, St. Louis, $325,000
- Community Health Center of Central Missouri, Linn, $406,250
- Compass Health Inc., Clinton, $324,300
- Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers Inc., St. Louis, $271,048
- Northwest Health Services Inc., St. Joseph, $324,409
- Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., Kirksville, $325,000
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the amount of prescription painkillers dispensed in the United States – and the number of deaths from prescription painkillers – have quadrupled since 1999.
Nearly 2 million Americans 12 and older were dependent on or abused opioids in 2013, the CDC says. More than 16,000 deaths were attributed to opioids in 2013.
Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.