Clark County leaders: More needed to fight drug problem

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced he will boost funding to fight opioid abuse by $17 million, but Clark County leaders said while they’re happy to get more resources it not likely enough money to provide lasting solutions.

The problem of daily drug overdoses in Clark County continues. Drug overdoses have killed 100 people in Clark County since the start of 2015, according to the Clark County Coroner’s Office. The majority of those deaths involved the opioid fentanyl and a mixture of drugs like heroin.

“This problem is everywhere,” Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said.

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will spend $17 million to help law enforcement agencies deal with increased heroin and opioid abuse.

At the same time, the administration is using the announcement to encourage Congress to meet President Barack Obama’s call for $1.1 billion in new funding to help states expand access to treatment.

The administration says the spending announced Wednesday will support an array of projects to disrupt drug trafficking, increase the use of the drug naloxone to reverse overdoses and train medical providers on safe prescribing practices.

Congress has approved legislation aimed at curbing heroin and opioid drugs. Obama signed the bill into law last month, but the president said he was deeply disappointed about funding levels. The bill authorized $181 million in new spending.

The sheriff’s office has responded to overdose calls in the most rural areas of the county, he said, and it’s not only a problem in cities.

All local law enforcement could use extra money for education, enforcement and treatment of drug addicts in the area, Kelly said.

“Local communities have no additional resources to fight this problem and you can only do so much with what you have,” he said.

Kelly is concerned though that the $17 million will likely be shared by thousands of agencies nationwide, meaning none of them will get very much money.

Drug overdose deaths here nearly doubled from 37 in 2014 to 72 in 2015, Clark County Coroner Richard Marsh said.

“(Funding) is great, but I’d like to hear more details about what exactly is going to be funded,” Marsh said.

The new money would fund “13 innovative projects nationwide to disrupt the trafficking of prescription opioids, fentanyl and heroin, as well as to help train medical providers in safe prescribing practices and increase the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone,” according to a White House news release.

The federal money would come from the Office of National Drug Control Policy for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Some of the money would pay to expand the year-old federal Heroin Response Strategy for HIDTAs in Ohio, Michigan and the Atlanta/Carolinas.

“The HIDTA Strategy has filled a void by making connections among cases and providing assistance to law enforcement agencies at all levels,” according to the release.

Congress last month approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill also targeting heroin and opioid drugs and authorizing $181 million in annual spending. Obama wants Congress to approve another $1.1 billion in new funding for state’s to use for drug addiction treatment.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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