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Highmark awards grants to fight opioid epidemic

Sarah Mueller
Public Health Director Karyl Rattay speaks at Highmark grant announcement

Highmark Delaware awarded a handful of grants Monday to help fight the opioid crisis locally.

The health insurance company gives out grants about twice a year to help insured or underinsured Delawareans.

Highmark’s four grants total $325,000 and will go to help first responders, prevention efforts and substance abuse treatment. Highmark established its grant program in 2007 to help people who are uninsured or underinsured.

Peggy Geisler with the Sussex County Health Coalition said they’re trying to support family members of addicts who see their loved ones overdose and struggle to stay sober.

“So what we’re trying to do is to form some complex, but systemic way to make sure we’re supporting not only those who are actively in addiction or who may want to seek treatment at the time," she said. "But also the families who are being impacted and the community as a whole.”

Geisler said she’s also seeing people overdose multiple times.

Nonprofit group atTAcK Addiction will get $50,000. David Humes of atTAcK Addiction said it will use the money to buy Naloxone, the overdose antidote.

Legislation signed into law in 2014 by former Gov. Jack Markell authorized law enforcement officers to carry Naloxone. Humes said Delaware first responders used Naloxone more than 2,700 times on over 1,900 people last year.

But Humes says he wants all emergency responders to carry it. Humes said Delaware first responders used Naloxone more than 2,700 times on over 1,900 people last year.

“Only 26 of the 46 departments of peace officers in the state are trained and carrying Naloxone," he said. "Initial expense may be the reason that not all departments are on-board at this time. We hope to see additional legislation that grants access of Naloxone to all people who have a legal duty to respond.”

Opioids depress the central nervous system. Overdosing can cause someone to stop breathing and die. Naloxone reverses an overdose.

Highmark is also giving money to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware and Gaudenzia Inc. In 2016, more than 300 people in Delaware died of suspected opioid overdoses.

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