The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is giving more than $1.8 billion in funding to states combating the opioid crisis, and Oklahoma is set to receive more than $23 million, the Trump administration announced Wednesday.

The first leg of funding comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which granted the Oklahoma State Department of Health $4.2 million to advance technology allowing the state to track overdose data as close to real-time as possible.

In a phone conference Wednesday morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said since President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the opioid crisis began, lag-time for the department receiving fatal overdose reports has been halved from 12 months to six.

Heroin-related opioid use disorder also decreased significantly among young adults, and monthly prescriptions for naltrexone, which prevents relapse into alcohol or drug abuse, more than doubled, according to a news release.

“We are truly heading in the right direction since this crisis arose,” Azar said. “But we know we still have work to do.”

A spokesman for the state Department of Health told The Oklahoman that the funding supports the timely collection of data on overdoses and uses that to guide prevention and response. Funding is part of a three-year cooperative agreement with the CDC for the nearly $4.2 million.

As part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response grants, Oklahoma will receive about $7.6 million in the first year, $3.9 million supplementally and $7.6 million in the second year for a total of $19.3 million to support prevention, treatment and recovery services however the state best sees fit.

Jeff Dismukes, spokesman at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said those funds will be funneled through the agency and used for treatment, prevention and outreach.

“About 80% of the funding goes directly into treatment, and the remaining 20% goes to prevention and outreach,” he said.

About 4,400 Oklahomans have engaged in treatment services made available by these funds, according to a news release. The agency is working on a comprehensive effort to address the state’s opioid crisis through community outreach efforts, prevention and targeted treatment, according to a release. The department works in partnership with dozens of other agencies.

The announcement comes a little more than a week after Cleveland County District Court Judge Thad Balkman returned a $572 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in the first major lawsuit against opioid manufacturers to make it to trial, The Oklahoman reported.

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Kelsy Schlotthauer

918-581-8455

kelsy.schlotthauer@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @K_Schlott

Kelsy graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University in 2018 and moved to Colorado to cover breaking news before The World called her home in 2019. Follow her on Twitter for real-time reports. Phone: (918) 581-8455

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