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PHOENIX, AZ—The Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded a grant to Arizona of $24,343,406 over a two-year period in an effort to combat opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid-related deaths. The funding was awarded in a non-competitive, formulary grant based on prevalence and need. Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), as the Single State Agency for Substance Abuse Treatment, will administer the grant and collaborate with its contracted regional behavioral health authorities (RBHAs), the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Governor’s Office for Youth, Faith and Family, the Department of Child Safety and the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to implement targeted activities starting within four months of the award.
“Opioid use disorder has reached epidemic proportions, affecting everyone from infants and senior citizens, reaching into university and criminal justice populations, and impacting communities all over Arizona, “ said Dr. Sara Salek, AHCCCS chief medical officer . “With this grant, we will focus on education, prevention, treatment, and recovery techniques with a goal to reduce opioid-related deaths and manage the rising associated costs. The grant includes plans to assess prevention, treatment and recovery needs and gaps; improve patient access to Medication Assisted Treatment services; and provide a prescription drug toolkit and technical assistance for behavioral health professionals, among other initiatives.”
AHCCCS will create an opioid monitoring initiative to capture, report and share opioid-related data, a comprehensive needs and capacity assessment, and a state strategic plan to address the gaps in prevention, treatment and recovery support. Efforts will focus on increasing access to OUD treatment, expanding access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) through stigma reduction and education, enlisting new MAT providers, ensuring 24/7 access to care points, increasing access to peer support services and increasing recovery support options. These efforts complement the existing suite of strategies AHCCCS to address the opioid epidemic within the Medicaid population, including community-based access to the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone; prescriber and patient education; opioid prescribing practices; and complex case management and care coordination.
One of the important activities the Arizona Department of Health Services will provide is Naloxone, an FDA-approved prescription drug, to law enforcement officers. Naloxone blocks opioid receptors, reversing toxic effects of an overdose.
“More Arizonans are dying from opioid abuse each year and that’s a trend we don’t want to continue to see,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “Putting this life-saving drug into the hands of our first responders and training them on how and when to administer Naloxone will be one of our areas of focus with these grant funds.”
The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family will administer $2.1 million of the annual grant to promote prevention activities, use of screenings for early identification, intervention and marketing of available resources, both online and in-person, across Arizona.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) will expand its Substance Exposed Newborn Safe Environment (SENSE) program making it available to more families statewide.
“Expanding availability of the home health nurse component of the SENSE program will enable more parents to achieve success in recovery from opioid addiction and most importantly, help ensure positive outcomes for Arizona’s most vulnerable children, our substance exposed newborns,” stated Susan Smith, M. Ed, CPM, prevention administrator for DCS.
In Arizona, deaths from opioids increased 43.9% between 2005 and 2015, while deaths from heroin increased 467.9%. In 2015 alone, there were 679 deaths in Arizona directly resulting from opioids.
Founded in 1982, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System serves 1.9 million children and adults in Arizona who meet qualifications for acute or long-term federal Medicaid healthcare coverage. Built on a system of competition and choice, AHCCCS is a $12 billion program that operates a mandatory managed care system. Contracted health plans coordinate medical services delivered by more than 66,000 healthcare providers.