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Washington To Receive $2.8 Million To Combat Opioid Epidemic

Heroin needle
Flickr Photo/William Fahrnbach (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/
Heroin needle

Federal health authorities say there’s an opioid epidemic across the country, and Washington is not immune.

In the Northwest, far more people die from drug overdoses than car crashes, according to Susan Johnson at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"In Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington we lose an average of 153 people a month -- this was in 2014 -- from drug overdoses," Johnson said.

HHS has announced $2.8 million in grants to clinics in Washington and more across the country. The grants will go to health care providers in Seattle and elsewhere to help fight the drug epidemic.

The grants will be used to boost counseling for people addicted to heroin and other opioids like oxycontin. They're also aimed at tightening up how legal drugs are prescribed and giving clinics more money to stock up on naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of heroin overdose.

The grants went to eight clinics in Washington as part of a broader federal plan to fight opioid abuse. The issue is getting special attention from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

She visited an addiction recovery center in Seattle Friday.

"Addiction is a disease, and when we treat it as a disease and begin to have mental health and addictions be part of treatment, that is how we are going to begin to solve this problem," Murray said.

She's working on legislation that would build on the work done through the grants. One of her bills would increase health worker access to the naloxone.