Former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg announced that he will spend $50 million to fight the opioid epidemic, focusing on 10 states that are hardest-hit by drug overdoses.
“The opioid epidemic is a national health crisis of historic proportion. Yet the federal government is still not tackling it with the urgency it requires,” Bloomberg wrote in an op-ed for USA Today. “What’s truly needed is a comprehensive strategy that includes the policy changes necessary to stem the epidemic and overcome barriers to treatment. We are not waiting around for the federal government to provide that strategy.”
Grants will be made through Bloomberg Philanthropies, beginning with a three-year grant to Pennsylvania, which is expected to be about $10 million, according to The Washington Post. Pennsylvania has an overdose rate of about twice the national average but also has an innovative approach to fighting drug addiction, including an Opioid Command Center that meets weekly. The Bloomberg grant will help support that and similar programs aimed at reducing the overdose death rate.
“States have already been leading in ways Washington hasn’t, and foundations can offer resources and expertise that can help them accelerate their work now,” Bloomberg wrote.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said that his state was chosen because they’re already doing good work in fighting the opioid epidemic but still have lots of problems to confront.
“I think Bloomberg Philanthropies was looking for a commonwealth or a state that was actually doing something,” Wolf told The Washington Post. “What I would hope is we can use the $10 million as a really generous add-on to the kinds of things we’re already doing.”
Bloomberg hopes to fund initiatives that can be replicated and help solve the overdose epidemic nationally.
“What we think we can do with $50 million is show the way in these 10 states,” Bloomberg said. “If they do things that we think make sense, then we will help fund it.”
It was not immediately clear which other states would benefit from Bloomberg’s grant money. However, the philanthropist hopes that the funds will make a difference to families across the nation.
“The pain, suffering, and death from opioid abuse is truly a national emergency. In just the time it took to read this commentary, another child has been removed from his or her parents’ care because of a parent’s opioid use,” he wrote. “Solving this crisis will not be easy. But states have a chance to show the federal government that bolder actions can save lives. And with so many communities crying out for leadership, there is no time to waste.”
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