The United States and other nations have stepped up efforts to bolster their legal defense funds as opioid use spirals.
In December, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that expanded the legal defense for individuals who have suffered a loss or have been injured while recovering from addiction.
The United Nations estimates that as many as half a million people in the United States may have used illegal drugs at some point in their lives, and some states are stepping up efforts, including Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
In 2017, lawmakers passed a bill to raise $1.2 billion for drug and alcohol treatment for drug users.
The fund, which is funded by fees collected from prescription drug manufacturers, has been used to cover more than $2 billion in treatment costs for opioid addicts in the U.S. According to a September 2018 report from the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, Pennsylvania, for instance, spent $4.7 million on the fund between August 2018 and June 2019.
But the fund also received $1 million from a state-run program that offers grants for opioid overdose recovery.
That program, which was funded by the U, has helped more than 1,600 opioid-dependent Pennsylvania patients recover and reintegrate into society.
Another program, the State Recovery Program for Women, has provided $734,000 for opioid treatment for women in Pennsylvania since 2014.
The drug and opioid crisis has left more than 20,000 people dead in the US, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“It’s not only an economic challenge for Pennsylvania and for other states, but it’s also a public health challenge because it is a public-health issue,” said Katie Coughlin, who was elected as Pennsylvania’s state’s attorney general in 2020 and has since expanded the opioid response.
“The more we can do to help people, the more resources we have.”
Coughlyn, who also serves as chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy, said the state was not only looking to invest in opioid treatment, but to use the funds to fund additional education and outreach.
“We have a tremendous amount of resources available and we want to use that,” she said.
“If you look at the data, a lot of people in Pennsylvania are suffering from opioid addiction.
We know how to help those people, and we can help them to get back on their feet and to get a job.”
As of late August, Pennsylvania had received more than 2,000 overdose deaths and more than 3,000 deaths related to opioid use, according the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services.
In the first three months of 2019, the state recorded more than 7,600 overdoses and nearly 7,500 opioid-related deaths.
But state data shows the number of overdose deaths for those age 15-24 is significantly lower, at just over 500.
The total number of opioid-involved deaths in Pennsylvania was roughly 9,000.
In a statement, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the federal government is working with states to make their recovery efforts more effective and to encourage state and local governments to implement policies that support treatment and recovery.
“This is a critical issue in Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
But he said the states and communities in the opioid crisis have been slow to respond.
“I think we’re just not ready to go to a place where we are not prepared to work with the federal and state governments to do more to help,” he said.
He also noted that some states, including Virginia, have struggled to recover from the opioid epidemic.
But as the crisis has spread, the number and severity of overdoses has increased, with the number in Virginia reaching the highest levels since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The state has seen more than 4,000 opioid-associated deaths in the last six months, up from about 1,300 in October.
“In Virginia, we have seen a lot more than we’re used to seeing,” Shapiro added.
“Virginia has a very, very long recovery process and it is very difficult to recover.”
State Rep. Matt Jones (R-York) is among those in the state legislature who are focused on helping people.
He’s also working on legislation that would make the opioid addiction treatment system more efficient and accessible.
“What we’re trying to do here is to put the burden of addiction on the states, and then we can have a federal strategy and a state strategy to help us as a nation,” Jones said.
Jones is also an active member of the state’s opioid-prevention task force, which he says has already made a significant difference in reducing overdose deaths.
“You’ve got to have a strategy, a strategy to address the epidemic in a way that is practical, and that’s what I’m working on,” he added.
Jones’ bill, called the Pennsylvania Recovery Program to Restore Public Health, would require state agencies to implement strategies to reduce overdose deaths, including a plan to reduce prescription drug misuse, and to provide funding for addiction