Gov. Cooper wants more federal money to fight opioids

Gov. Roy Cooper gave state health officials the go ahead Monday to immediately apply for a $25 million grant from Washington. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Gov. Roy Cooper gave state health officials the go ahead Monday to immediately apply for a $25 million grant from Washington.

The money would go toward prevention, treatment and recovery services for an estimated 5,000 people across North Carolina.

There were about 1,500 fatal opioid overdoses in 2016 and more than 4,000 OD cases treated in emergency rooms.

"We're asking for grants or trying to get a little bit more funding for the future," Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at Mountain Area Health Education Center, said. "Every little bit of money helps us with this opioid crisis."

Fagan is a glass half-full kind of guy, but he's also a realist when it comes to a prescription drug abuse epidemic out of control.

"We probably need enough funding to cover maybe closer to 100,000 people that are in North Carolina that are in their addiction, in their addiction, and not able to receive services currently," he said.

The dollar figures become staggering. If $25 million covers 5,000 people, then it would take $500 million to handle the 100,000 Fagan talked about.

On a nationwide scale, the difference between what is there and what is needed is mind-boggling.

"Thirteen billion-dollars. Billion is a big number. That's a thousand millions. That sounds awesome, but ..." Fagan said.

"We need about 10 times that number. So, we need about $130 billion and right now. In the political climate that we're in, and the funding climate that we're in, I just don't see that as a reality."

But the reality for Fagan and his colleagues is the battle must go on. And it will, one dollar and one opioid addicted person at a time.

"We have really dedicated, passionate people that are fighting in the opioid epidemic space because they've lost loved ones or have had family or friends who've overdosed or died," Fagan said. "But then, you've got to have money. This really is a fight or a struggle where people are dying, and so 5,000 people that we can help is a total win."

There's another piece of the grant request meant to attack the opioid crisis head on -- money set aside to buy Narcan, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug carried by first-responders.

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