Santa Cruz County receives federal grant to combat opioid crisis

Santa Cruz County will soon receive a $200,000 federal grant aimed at formulating a plan to battle the opioid crisis in the more rural parts of the state. The grant is for rural communities along the border to create an Opioid Response Program, which will include a number of agencies that will come together to outline an effective solution.

According to numbers out of the Nogales Fire Department, opioid overdose-related calls jumped up by 56 percent between 2017 and 2018 with that number expected to rise for 2018-2019.

Patty Molina, Senior Director of Community Health Services at Mariposa Community Health Center, is leading the project. Altogether there are 15 community agencies in Santa Cruz County working to figure out how to effectively find a solution to dealing with treatment and prevention of not only opioid use but the trafficking behind it.

“The HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Planning (RCORP-P) grant was awarded to Mariposa Community Health Center to address substance use disorder and opioid use disorder in Santa Cruz County. Although Mariposa is the lead, 40 percent of the budget will support five local partners and consultants to help us keep it all moving, plus travel costs to visit evidence-based models in other communities,” said Molina.

Drug overdoses have seen a sharp rise in recent years as supply and demand are both high. This past March saw another major bust in Arizona when the Department of the Interior seized about 30,000 fentanyl pills and other illegal drugs at points of entry on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona.

Efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the state have previously garnered financial support, like when the state received more than $20 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Molina explains that there will need to be a strategic plan as well as an effort to develop a workforce in the program and a needs analysis.

She notes that Santa Cruz County has been a thoroughfare of sorts for the flow of opioids, and has seen its own steady rise in shipments that move along to other parts of the country. But in recent years some of the shipments have stayed within the county instead of moving along, causing an uptick in overdoses.

Since 2010, the county has seen a 33 percent-spike in overdoses.

Nick Esquer

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