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State health officials call Opioid Crisis Response Act a good first step

Delaware Public Media

Delaware health officials are commending steps taken by the Opioid Crisis Response Act signed by President Trump this week. It has special provisions for states hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

The new legislation has a long list of bullet points.

It funnels money through grant programs to deal with the epidemic on multiple levels - from implementing plans of safe care for substance-exposed infants, to regulating opioid prescribing practices to making permanent a policy allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe medication-assisted treatment.

Delaware is identified as one of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis and is receiving a concentration of federal funding through the legislation that’s not available to all states.

Delaware Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Elizabeth Romero says one new policy sure to help the First State is a student loan repayment program for substance use treatment professionals working in areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

“That will be a huge opportunity for the state to be able to bring in additional practitioners as well as professionals who can help us combat this crisis in places where we have a severe shortage of those who can actually help,” said Romero.

Romero says the legislation will also add support to the state’s START program embedding peer mentors in emergency departments to connect overdose patients to treatment.

But others aren’t convinced the legislation goes far enough.

Peggy Geisler is the Executive Director of the Sussex County Health Coalition. She questions whether the funding will be sustained for as long as it needs to be.

“It’s sort of a marathon, not a sprint, and the worst thing would to set some of these systems up—set these supports up—and then federal dollars start to dry up after an election year and then we see us reverting back to where we were,” said Geisler.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials endorsed the legislation, but Geisler says the funding in Delaware will likely be distributed mostly on the state level.

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