NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Communities that are being hit hard by the opioid crisis may start seeing some relief when, in an effort to fight addiction, the Department of Health awards $1.8 billion towards substance abuse and mental health.
"We've been doing this since pretty much the beginning, but really emphasis over the last year and a half. These funds will be delivered to the communities where help is most needed," President Donald Trump said.
Trump said the money will go to all 50 states and be used to increase access to medication, treatment and mental health resources.
"So many problems are caused by this problem. These grants will also support state and local governments in obtaining high quality, comprehensive data so that we can help the most people and save the most lives," Trump said.
State Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee has been supportive of another tool to fight opioid overdoses.
“Three years ago, I wrote a standing order, Dr. Gee’s Standing Order so that you can get naloxone in any pharmacy in Louisiana without a prescription, and almost 2,000 people have filled that,” Gee said.
Now, naloxone, an overdose reversing drug, will also be available online. Senator Bill Cassidy said it’s a start, but is not a solution to the crisis.
"That saves a life, but long term, we also need programs where someone ceases to be an addict in the sense that they are taking an overdose. I'm pleased to announce I think we have $7 million coming to our state as part of an overall nationwide package to allow communities to address opioids," Cassidy said.
Gee hosted a summit alongside Governor John Bel Edwards on the Northshore Wednesday (Sept. 4) to address the issue.
“Why Slidell? Because the Northshore of the state is one of the worst hit places. Ironically, people had access to healthcare before the Medicaid expansion where higher income were likely to get opioids, and so that’s where we see the crux of the epidemic,” Gee said.
Gee said she’s worked with Edwards to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions, and increase access to treatment for those with addiction.
She said she believes the Opioid Summit is a step in the right direction.
"We're really excited about the number of people, the energy that's being applied to this problem," Gee said.
The summit will last three days. On Friday, there will be a town hall event open to the public at the Slidell Harbor Center starting at 8:30 a.m. Friday.