CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources recently learned the state will receive another round of significant funding from the federal government to fight the opioid crisis.
The agency will receive $14.6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That will be joined with a $28 million award the state received last summer, Christina Mullins, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health told MetroNews Monday.
“We did not necessarily apply for it (the additional $14 million),” she said. “States who got the State Opioid Response Grant got this supplemental award. Now we have to go through the paperwork to actually physically bring the money to West Virginia.”
Mullins foresees the state spending the supplemental funds in the same way it’s started to spend the initial $28 million.
“We will be continuing to expand community treatment opportunities. We’ll also be trying to enhance peer-based services and we’ll also look and evaluate whether additional quick-response teams are needed,” Mullins said.
Battling the impact of the opioid crisis takes a wide approach, Mullins said. The DHHR is working with the governor’s advisory committee on opioid response. It also held regional meetings last fall to gather community input. Mullins said one thing they learned is there’s a shortage of people to deliver treatment services. She says they are now working with the state’s three medical schools to develop a workforce in those treatment areas. Some of those responses won’t happen overnight, Mullins said.
“We have to have a long-term view. We’ve been really battling this epidemic for five or six years and we have to be thinking how we get out of it,” Mullins said. “In terms of workforce, in terms of preventing kids from ever starting. There are just so many facets to it. We have to figure out how to attack it from every angle.”
Mullins said what’s now a total of $42 million will certainly help.
“I think we can accomplish a lot with that kind of money. That is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before come through in grant programs from our federal partners,” she said.
The DHHR is also putting in quality control measures.
“We’re working with our university partners to evaluate funding expenditures and developing contracts and agreements to make sure there’s data and reporting,” Mullins said. “We’re also working with our federal partners to make sure reporting is accurate and we are using the funding wisely.”
One of the programs big goals to is make sure each of the state’s 55 counties has FDA-approved treatment access. She said that’s currently not available in a few counties.
Mullins said there’s a lot to consider at the same time in connection with he opioid response. She said it’s part of the reason the DHHR has engaged a number of partners.
“We are trying to get these funds out to the local communities,” she said. “It’s (impact of opioid epidemic) everywhere. It’s permeated the way we live and we have to think about it. We have to be able to prevent people from dying. We have to be able to prevent people from starting. We also have to be ready to get people into treatment the minute they say they are ready for treatment.”
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito applauded the awarding of the grant money.
“West Virginia has been at the frontlines of the fight against the opioid epidemic and is now ground zero for recovery efforts. This funding will enable West Virginia to provide our citizens with the help that they need in order to combat the opioid epidemic in our state. Our citizens deserve the opportunity to receive treatment. As a member of the Appropriations committee, I will continue to fight to ensure that West Virginia receives the federal funding and support we need to prevent overdose deaths,” said Senator Manchin.
“The drug epidemic has devastated so many families and so many communities across West Virginia, and federal funding like this plays an important role in helping us fight back against the opioid crisis,” Senator Capito said. “I helped change the state grant formula in the Labor-HHS government funding bill last fall, and the benefits of that change are evident today with this distribution of resources. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, it’s been my goal not only to ensure these funds are available but also to make sure they’re going to states with the greatest needs—states like West Virginia. I am glad to see this critical funding come to our state and will continue to advocate for these much-needed resources.”