State teams up with U of A to fight opioid crisis through grant

State teams up with U of A to fight opioid crisis through grant
First responders are working hand-in-hand with 14 critical access hospitals in Arizona. (Source: KOLD News 13)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A federal gr ant will allow the state and the University of Arizona to ramp up their efforts to combat the opioid crisis in communities across the state.

Since mid-June, 5,512 people have suffered a suspected overdose from opioids. More than 800 of the cases turned deadly. Click here to see the latest numbers in real time.

The $3 million gr ant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will allow state and university workers to help train first responders in rural communities.

First responders will be trained to identify the symptoms of opioid abuse, and they will also be equipped with the drug Naloxone. Also known as Narcan, it's used to block the effects of opioids especially during an overdose.

But Dan Derkson with the U of A said the gr ant will allow them to go beyond administering the drug. They will be trained on things like opioid screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment curriculum.

Derkson said in many cases patients who overdose have overdosed before, so he hopes providing resources will help stop the addiction cycle before it turns deadly.

Derkson said with people in Arizona dying daily, there's no time to waste.

"We have to be doing something different than we have been doing. There's been more than two Arizonans dying every single day of opioid overdose. More than half of which are related to prescription overdose," he said.

The money will also be used to train people in the community. The gr ant funds will be put into the communities over the next four years.

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