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Puerto Rico to receive $24 million to manage opioid crisis

By on September 2, 2020

Federal allocation will help fund projects, materials and training for next 2 years

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico State Opioid Response (SOR by its Spanish acronym), an initiative by the Mental Health & Antiaddiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish acronym) is receiving a $24 million federal allocation, ASSMCA Administrator Suzanne Roig Fuertes announced.

The allocation, which comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA English) is intended to fund the developments of projects within SOR over the next two years.

“This is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive proposals on the subject of prevention and care that has been achieved at ASSMCA. With this new allocation of funds, we will continue developing projects that seek to raise awareness about the risk of abusing opioid medications, as well as help those who unfortunately have developed some dependence on these drugs and of course avoid the deaths from overdoses,” Roig explained.

To strengthen prevention efforts, the project includes training for nearly 1,500 first responders, including physicians, pharmacists and correctional officers. In addition, the agency will distribute Naloxone to treat immediate overdose cases. Treatment and recovery of substance abuse in the adult population will be strengthened through the integration of best practices in methadone programs, residential centers and drug courts. The ASSMCA Detox Unit will integrate the use of Naltrexone and Buprenorphine, which have shown to be effective as part of opioid abuse treatments.

Between 1999 and 2017, some 399,000 people died from an opioid overdose in the United States, making it one of the leading causes of death nationwide. In Puerto Rico, 2018 saw 100 fatal overdoses, while in 2019 that number rose to 188.

In addition, ASSMCA will strengthen the process of testing the population diagnosed with HIV and the vaccination of thousands of patients at risk of hepatitis. Also, alliances with community-based organizations and municipalities that have proven to run successful programs have also begun to be created.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), developed by ASSMCA through the Act 70 of 2017, established an electronic drug monitoring system, as well as sanctions and penalties resulting from improper handling of prescription medication. The PDMP allows for tracking the prescription of narcotics, helps in the identification of addiction problems and facilitates clinical decision making, Roig explained.

Similarly, a program to collect controlled drugs will be implemented in 50 island municipalities in collaboration with pharmacies, and certain municipalities will receive funding to develop projects aimed at the prevention of opioid overdose and will impact hundreds of inmates in their process of transitioning to the outside world.

“It is pertinent to thank the Federal Government for approval of this proposal. In tune with the priorities of Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, our goal is to continue taking affirmative actions to educate about the dangerousness of these drugs and discourage their consumption and avoid the increase in deaths from opioid overdoses,” Roig concluded.

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