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White House announces funding request that would bring $86 million in opioid resources to Ohio

Fentanyl test strips provided for free during a Save a Life Day event in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Sept. 8, 2022.
David Smith
Reporting on Addiction
Fentanyl test strips provided for free during a Save a Life Day event in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Sept. 8, 2022.

The White House on Wednesday announced a federal funding request that would allocate $86 million in funding to Ohio to address the opioid epidemic.

The Biden administration is calling on Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement for the funding, which would include $1.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to counter fentanyl trafficking and more than $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response grants for strengthened resources including addiction treatment, overdose prevention measures and recovery support.

If approved, Ohio would receive the fourth highest allocation, behind $250 million for Native American tribes through the Indian Health Service, $95 million for California and $90 million for Florida.

Ohio recorded 4,313 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2021, according to Ohio Department of Health data. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics says Ohio’s overdose death rate is 38.3% per 100,000 residents, a rate 85% higher than the national average.

Funding allocations were determined by individual states' needs, according to Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gupta said during a call with reporters Wednesday that a formula weighing state populations and overdose mortality rates determined each state's estimated amount. If approved, Gupta said it would be up to state substance abuse coordinators to decide where the federal money goes.

Gupta also said the funding request would address the two key driving factors behind the opioid epidemic: drug trafficking and addiction treatment.

The $1.2 billion request to target trafficking would include updated screening technology at the borders, Sen. Bob Casey said during Wednesday's press call. The Pennsylvania Democrat added that the majority of fentanyl in the U.S. arrives through border points of entry. The proposed funding would add more border patrol agents and new inspection equipment, including 123 new scanners to screen vehicles, Casey said. According to the White House, the request also includes $23 million for the Department of Justice for illicit fentanyl testing and tracing activities.

Casey is confident the funding proposal will receive bipartisan support in the Senate, but noted potential challenges from House Republicans, citing other humanitarian support priorities for Israel and Ukraine.

"I'm hoping that the House will come together and pass funding that will include all of these priorities. I think in the end, we’ll get it done but the House might cause some bumps in the road," Casey said, adding, "You can't say you care about this issue unless you vote for the dollars for the quality of treatment."

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, drug overdose deaths are up 30% year-over-year, with more than 96,700 people dying from overdoses each year. Opioids are a factor in seven of every 10 overdose deaths, according to NCDAS.

Nationwide, Ohio ranked seventh among all states in 2021 for drug overdose death rate at 48.1% per 100,000 total population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence is a digital producer for the engaged journalism team at Ideastream Public Media.