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PA announces drug dept. grant to assist communities of color

Prescription Medication
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Prescription medication lays on a table with pill bottles in the background.

On Monday, Pennsylvania announced a grant opportunity that stems from nationwide settlements related to the opioid epidemic. The state is looking to fund groups that work with the hardest-hit communities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) plans to give grants of up to $400,000 to organizations that aim to reverse the growing trend of overdose deaths in communities of color, especially among Black Pennsylvanians.

Overdose deaths of Black Pennsylvanians increased nearly 40% between 2019 and 2020, according to DDAP. Then in 2021, the department found that the overdose death rate of Black Pennsylvanians was almost twice that of white Pennsylvanians.

“As part of the 2022-23 state budget, DDAP was appropriated about $16.5 million opioid distributor settlement funding that will be allocated in-part to this funding opportunity,” said Stephany Dugan, the department’s press secretary.

From that total, Dugan said about a quarter of the settlement money – $4 million – will be doled out over 12 months starting in July.

DDAP laid out specifics for eligible organizations, including those who offer harm reduction services, education, access to medication-assisted treatment and recovery support to “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities” in the grant initiative document. The department will also consider organizations that provide offender reentry support.

The money on-hand comes from pharmaceutical distributors who were made to pay settlements for their role in the opioid epidemic. More than $2 billion dollars will come to Pennsylvania over the next 15 years from several settlements, according to the PA Attorney General.

But, Dugan said, this year’s funding comes from settlements with Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson for their “role in creating and fueling the nationwide opioid crisis.”

The deadline for organizations to apply for the “Services for BIPOC Communities” grant is March 10.

More information on how to apply can be found at DDAP.PA.gov.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.
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