(St. Joseph,MO) A federal grant is giving city officials tools needed to raise awareness about the deadly opioid epidemic. The St. Joseph Health Department received a $97,028 grant from the Department of Health and Senior Services to combat the opioid epidemic.
"The grant that we are receiving is funds that have funneled down from the federal level. They have allocated a lot of money to address the opioid crisis in our country," Community Health Educator Nancy King said.
The grant will be used to create the Opioid Crisis Response Program.
"It unfortunately cannot be used for treatment, but it is going to be used for education and prevention in our community," King said.“They have different pots of money to address different aspects of the crisis. The money that we are getting through our local health department is primarily used for education, prevention.”
On Monday the city council approved changes to the general fund, allowing the Health Department to officially accept the grant.
"I think it's something we can't shy away from. It's out there and I think we need to be one of the cities that is ahead of the game in trying to find something for people for help," City Councilwoman At Large Brenda Blessing said.
According to the Health Department, St. Joseph has had fewer opioid related deaths than other major cities in the state. King said she hopes the extension of the education program will prevent more people from becoming addicted to opioids.
“St. Joseph has not seen the epidemic levels that we’ve seen on either coast, or in Missouri in the bigger cities, but we know it’s coming. We feel like it’s very critical, we have this very unique opportunity to use the funding to prevent the opioid deaths from happening,” King said.
King said the Health Department will be making the most of the grant by partnering with other community agencies.
"In order to be effective at using our grant funds we are with this short one year time frame looking to partner with the St. Joseph Youth Alliance, using one of their prevention specialists to help attack the problem, address the issues,"King said.
The Health Department will partner with the Youth Alliance to focus on opioid education and addiction prevention in young adults and teens.
"We feel like we can use these funds to help prevent what is happening in other communities across the country,"King said.
Individuals struggling with opioid addiction can reach out to Missouri’s 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 888-279-8188.
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