Delaware AG: More treatment beds needed to fight opioid crisis

Delaware AG Matt Denn says more needs to be done to combat the state's opioid epidemic. (WHYY, file)

Delaware AG Matt Denn says more needs to be done to combat the state's opioid epidemic. (WHYY, file)

There are about 11,000 people in Delaware with substance abuse disorder, but only 200 supervised treatment slots. Making more treatment beds available is one way Delaware can beef up its fight against the opioid epidemic, according to state Attorney General Matt Denn.

Denn released his office’s fourth annual report Wednesday looking at how the state is managing the crisis. In the past four years, about 1,000 Delawareans have died from drug overdoses, mostly as a result of opioids.

“That is a number that I think about a lot,” Denn said. “Behind those numbers are a thousand personal tragedies suffered by our friends and neighbors. It is the public health crisis of our generation.”

Those numbers would be even worse, Denn said, if not for the expanded use of the overdose remedy naloxone and other steps the state has taken to combat the crisis. Those steps include expanded prosecution against illegal drug rings, funding assistance to help those with substance abuse find immediate treatment, and $3 million for programs recommended by the Behavioral Health Consortium.

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Beyond ferreting out drug suppliers and dealers, local law enforcement is also stepping up their efforts to support those addicted to opioids and other drugs.

“We’ve got agencies out there that are absolutely committed to expand their activities beyond interdiction and arrest,” said Chief Kenneth McLaughlin of the Ocean View Police Department. “That’s going to require financial support for drug education programs and expanded treatment options.”

As he released last year’s report, Denn said the state needed to do a better job of funding treatment and other solutions. He reiterated that lawmakers need to prioritize funding on Wednesday. “No, we don’t believe that current funding levels for sober living or long term residential treatment from the state are adequate,” Denn said.

Earlier this month, the state launched the Substance Use Treatment and Recovery Transformation Initiative, an effort to connect more than 900 new clients with state services via peers who have previously struggled with addiction. The START Initiative received $2 million through a federal grant. START will also begin getting funds from Medicaid reimbursements.

Before adjourning for the year in June, the General Assembly approved more than $1 million in new funding for addiction-related efforts. That includes $990,000 for substance abuse disorder assessment and treatment; $328,500 for 20 new sober living beds; and $100,000 to provide the opioid overdose-reversing medication naloxone to first responders statewide.

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