Officials from the Division of Public Health announced Sept. 10 the agency was recently awarded a $5.8 million Overdose Data to Action grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce fatal drug overdoses in Delaware.

The purpose of the three-year grant is to support DPH’s comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to the opioid crisis in Delaware. The grant period began Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2022. The state will receive $5.8 million each year for the three-year period.

Delaware's newly created Office of Health Crisis Response, which is currently dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis, is responsible for managing the grant and working with partner agencies to implement activities geared toward reducing drug overdose deaths in the state. The main components of the OD2A grant are surveillance and prevention.

In 2018, there were 400 overdose deaths across the state, an increase of 16% from the 2017 total of 345 deaths, according to the Division of Forensic Science. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Delaware as number six in the nation for per-capita overdose deaths in 2017. The state also is ranked first in the nation for per-capita prescribing of both high-dose and long-acting opioid medications, according to the CDC.

“Up and down our state, we have more work to do to reduce the heartbreaking toll that the opioid epidemic is taking on thousands of Delawareans and their families,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “This additional funding will help us identify trends and collaborate in ways that were not possible before. Put simply, this funding will help us save lives.”

The OD2A grant will allow Delaware to capture data more accurately and rapidly so that it can be shared more easily with key partners working on the opioid crisis. Some of the stakeholders dedicated to the drug crisis include DPH, the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, the Delaware Department of Correction, the Delaware Department of Justice, the Delaware National Guard, local emergency medical services, local and state police and federal drug agencies.

The prevention component of the grant will allow OHCR and its collaborators to continue DPH’s work to educate medical providers on alternatives to opioid medications for the management of chronic pain and best practices to ensure controlled substances are prescribed safely when necessary.

“Federal, state and local partners must work together on this complex health crisis,” said Rattay. “This funding also will allow us to work with our community partners such as doctors and pharmacists who are on the front lines of the epidemic and play a vital role in reversing the alarming trends that we are seeing here in Delaware and elsewhere in the country.”

The grant also provides the state with funding to continue its community outreach efforts. DPH has partnered with faith-based and other community groups to provide a grassroots response to the crisis. These efforts can range from training community partners on where and how to administer naloxone, to linking individuals struggling with substance use disorder to the proper supports. The enhanced availability of data, along with partnerships within the community, will allow OHCR and other agencies to tailor activities and programs to address specific trends that may be occurring.

“This funding will allow the good work our state is doing to reverse the alarming trend of opioid deaths in our state to continue,” said Sen. Tom Carper. “We must also address the root causes of addiction so we can prevent it in the first place. Delaware — and states across the country who are grappling with addiction — have seen great success when they partner with faith-based and community organizations to form an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting people the help they need. I’m proud of the work Delaware is doing and will continue to work on the federal level to get the resources we need to combat this health crisis.”

“Here in Delaware, the opioid crisis has impacted almost every family and community, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to address it,” said Sen. Chris Coons. “Federal funding like this is critical to helping state and local agencies deal with this crisis, and I’m committed to working with government officials at all levels, law enforcement, public health officials and community leaders to reverse the trends of opioid abuse in Delaware.”

“The overdose epidemic that we have seen unfold right here in Delaware requires a coordinated and comprehensive response not only from federal, state, and local governments, but between medical professions, law enforcement and community leaders,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “I’m grateful for the work of the Division of Public Health in pursuing this grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and I am hopeful that the significant investment provided by CDC will help Delaware address this public health crisis and ultimately save lives.”

Additionally, Delaware will use funding to implement a new awareness campaign to reduce the stigma associated with addiction. The campaign will encourage individuals to identify and use available resources, such as HelpIsHereDE.com, or the OpiRescue Delaware smartphone app, which provides information on where to find the lifesaving drug naloxone, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to respond to an overdose, including administration of naloxone. To download the free OpiRescue Delaware app, go to HelpIsHereDE.com, and click on the overdose prevention tab.

Although the grant period is for three years, Delaware will be required to resubmit its application to the CDC for annual funding.

Those struggling with addiction should call DHSS’ 24/7 Crisis Hotline to be connected with help. In New Castle County, call 800-652-2929; in Kent and Sussex counties, call 800-345-6785; or visit helpisherede.com.