Produced by Lynn Hulsey

More funds aimed at heroin problem

Ohio to get funding as part of national enforcement strategy.

Anti-heroin enforcement efforts in Ohio could get a boost following Wednesday’s announcement by President Barack Obama that he will increase funding to fight opioid abuse by $17 million.

The funding will add Ohio and two other High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to the national Heroin Response Strategy announced last year. Some 20 states are now covered by that anti-heroin effort, which is designed to pool resources and information among law enforcement agencies and to work collaboratively to attack the heroin epidemic on multiple fronts.

About $5.6 million of the total would be earmarked toward “13 innovative projects nationwide,” according to a White House news release. The projects, which were not identified, are aimed at disrupting the trafficking of prescription opioids, fentanyl and heroin, and training medical providers in “safe prescribing practices,” according to the news release.

More widespread use of of the overdose reversal drug naloxone would also be made possible through the increased funding, the White House said.

More funding for the anti-drug effort came as welcome news to those fighting the opioid epidemic locally. Montgomery County deaths linked to heroin and fentanyl this year are expected to exceed the 2014 record number of 264.

“Obviously we need to hit the drug problem, especially the opioid problem in America on many different levels,” said Ann Stevens, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. “Adding more money to help law enforcement is critical if we’re ever going to get a handle on the illegal drug trafficking in this country.”

Stevens said funding is needed for all aspects of the anti-heroin effort.

“People are dying,” she said. “The first thing we have to do is save their lives and the next thing is to make sure they’re offered treatment.”

Montgomery County officials last week announced plans to spend $3.5 million in Human Services Levy money to help opioid addicts recover from addiction. That is in addition to $10 million it already expected to spend.

“These new and expanded services will go a long way to reach those who need help the most,” said Jeff Cooper, health commissioner for Public Health-Dayton and Montgomery County.

Combating the heroin epidemic is getting more attention on both the local and national level. Congress last month approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill also targeting heroin and opioid drugs and authorizing $181 million in annual spending. Obama wants Congress to approve another $1.1 billion in new funding for states to use for drug addiction treatment.

The $17 million authorized Wednesday is mainly focused on law enforcement and would come from the Office of National Drug Control Policy for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). The expansion brings to eight the number of HIDTAs that are in the Heroin Response Strategy program. In addition to Ohio, the funding adds Michigan and Atlanta/Carolinas to the program.

“The HIDTA Strategy has filled a void by making connections among cases and providing assistance to law enforcement agencies at all levels,” the White House release says.