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DHHS Receives Additional $10.9 Million for Opioid Prevention and Response

Lincoln – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been awarded several federal grants that will expand the Department’s opioid prevention and treatment programs.

“As a state, we are committed to working together to prevent opioid abuse from reaching crisis level, as it has in many other states across the nation,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “With this funding from President Trump’s administration, we will be able to provide more resources and services to Nebraskans related to opioid education, prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

The Division of Behavioral Health (BH) has been awarded an $8 million State Opioid Response Grant – $4 million per year for two years – by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In addition to sustaining existing BH prevention, treatment and recovery efforts such as naloxone kit distribution, funding for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), and training clinicians through Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, a distance learning initiative), BH also plans to fund supported housing for those with substance use disorders.

“Through the employment of three full-time outreach workers, we will have the opportunity to add 12 to 15 Oxford Houses [supported housing for those in recovery from substance use disorders] in high-burden areas across Nebraska,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “We will also be able to offer grand rounds-style mentoring for newly certified prescribers of buprenorphine and its use in MAT.”

The Division of Public Health has been awarded a one year, $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, totaling $750,000. The funding will be used to scale-up prevention and response activities and enhance Nebraska’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

“Addressing opioid misuse and abuse and preventing unintentional drug overdoses in our state continues to be a public health priority,” said Susan Strohn, deputy director of Public Health for DHHS. “These grants augment our ongoing efforts to be proactive and focus on education and prevention to help improve health outcomes and save lives.”

Grant-related prevention and response activities will include:

  • Conducting needs assessments – DHHS will use the funding to conduct needs assessments for first responders and hospitals to help determine overall capacity for responding to opioid overdoses.
  • Increasing education and training – Additional opportunities for prescribers in high-need areas to receive training on using the prescription drug monitoring program, naloxone and the Pain Management Guidance document.
  • Enhancing public health surveillance – Combine emergency medical services and Poison Control Center data to allow access and analysis more quickly.
  • Developing a crisis response plan – A resource guide that can be used at the state and local level that will provide a roadmap and resources if Nebraska sees a dramatic increase in opioid overdoses and overdose deaths.
  • Enhancing to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) – Enhancements include a patient dashboard for medical providers, alert to notify providers of a patient’s increased risk for opioid related adverse events, and enhanced patient searching capabilities.  All enhancements have been developed based on provider feedback and are intended to make it even easier for medical providers to utilize the PDMP.

DHHS is at the forefront of providing tools to support the reduction of prescription drug misuse and abuse and overdoses. Initiatives include:

  • Nebraska’s PDMP – A comprehensive patient safety tool allowing medication providers to more easily review a patient’s medication history. Nebraska became the first state in the nation to require reporting of all dispensed prescription drugs to its PDMP on Jan, 1, 2018.
  • Access to a life-saving drug called naloxone – Naloxone kits are actively being dispensed to individuals in the community who are at high risk or know someone at high risk for an opioid overdose. A standing order for naloxone was issued to help facilitate access to the drug for family members and friends who may assist in an opioid overdose emergency.
  • Nebraska Pain Management Guidance Document – This document promotes consistent, safe and effective pain management standards for Nebraska prescribers.
  • Opioid response funding – Nebraska’s Pain and Substance Use Disorder Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes (Project ECHO) is training healthcare providers on pain and substance use disorders. Since 2017, BH’s opioid evidence-based prevention education has reached more than 125,000 individuals, over 2,200 prescription lock boxes have been distributed and prescription drug take-back events collected more than 998 pounds of medication.
  • Routine Monitoring of Prescription Medications by Medicaid – Patients identified as receiving more than 150 doses of a short-acting opioid in a 30-day period (excluding cancer patients) are flagged, and every physician who has prescribed opioids for that patient is contacted.

 Facts about drug overdose deaths in Nebraska:

  • In 2017, 183 Nebraskans died of a drug overdose, and at least 59 of those deaths involved opioids. In 2016, 128 people died of a drug overdose and at least 38 of those deaths involved opioids.
  • Data shows a slight increase in opioid-related deaths in Nebraska over the last decade from 2.4 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 3.1 per 100,000 in 2017.
  • Nebraska’s drug overdose death rate has also increased – 9.8 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people in 2017 up from 3.6 in 2004. The U.S. drug overdose death rate per 100,000 people was 19.8 in 2016 versus 9.3 in 2004.
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