Clinics in the Treasure Valley, Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene will receive at least $325,000 each to increase the number of patients screened for substance abuse addictions and get them treatment.
The money is part of $94 million awarded to health centers across the country and announced Friday. Clinics in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska will share $8.2 million in funding, said Susan Johnson, regional director for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will provide for the hiring of 65 new health professionals and allow the clinics to treat 6,000 new patients.
The Idaho clinics are Treasure Valley-based Terry Reilly Health Service, Kaniksu Health Services in Sandpoint and Heritage Health in Coeur d’Alene. Boundary and Heritage will each get $325,000; Terry Reilly was awarded $352,083.
“I’m delighted,” said Heidi Traylor, Terry Reilly’s chief executive officer. “I think a lot of folks in our community need the help and for us to be able to offer it and be responsive to what people need is an exciting day.”
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The money will be used to offer clients medication-assisted treatment at clinics in Boise and Nampa. In that type of treatment, medication is combined with counseling and behavioral therapies.
“Once you’re trying to help somebody with a recovery program, you need to make sure you address their other health care needs,” Traylor said. “They may have oral health care needs. You may have to look at issues around housing and employment and relationships with family members and friends. We look at it from a very holistic perspective.”
The money will be spent over a two-year period. If federal officials are satisfied with the progress made in those two years, the funding will become permanent, Traylor said.
There were 419 overdose deaths in Idaho in 2013 and 2014, according to HHS. The state saw a 250 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2000 and 2010, according to the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. Nationally, those deaths quadrupled.
“In rural and urban communities across the country, the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing health issues in the United States,” Johnson said during a telephone briefing with reporters. “We lose far too many of our fellow Americans to drug overdoses.”
The Idaho fatalities were among 3,573 deaths reported in the four Northwestern states in 2013 and 2014. While overdoses in the region are lower than the national average, they’re still a major problem, Johnson said.
“We know that drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury in the United States, taking more lives than car crashes,” Johnson said.
Along with the clinic funding, HHS has three priorities in battling addiction to prescription painkillers.
First, the agency wants to help doctors balance the the legitimate use of those drugs with the need to curb overprescribing among patients who abuse them.
Alaska, Johnson said, has cut the number of prescriptions given out for painkillers through a concerted effort.
Second, health officials want to increase the use of naloxone, a drug that can prevent an opioid overdose from becoming fatal. Last year, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill allowing friends and family members to obtain a prescription for naloxone, which could be used in an emergency.
By last year, 27 states and the District of Columbia had made naloxone available to laypeople.
Third, the agency is encouraging the expanded use of medication-assisted treatment in treating prescription drug abuse, as the Terry Reilly clinics will do.