/ Modified apr 5, 2023 4:21 p.m.

Opioid mitigation efforts underway in Pima County

One Arizona settlement funds immediate purchase of Narcan, eligible for new settlement funds.

360 narcan boxes A package of Narcan Nasal Spray, a form of naloxone that can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
AZPM Staff

The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the allocation of $180,000 in settlement funds for opioid mitigation efforts at Tuesday’s board meeting. The allotted funds will allow the immediate purchase and distribution of Narcan, the brand name for the opioid overdose reversal medication Naloxone.

The monies come from the One Arizona Agreement, the statewide vehicle for the distribution of national opioid settlement funds. Beginning in late 2022, Pima County and partner jurisdictions have begun receiving payments by the National Opioid Settlement of approximately $3 million.

Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said that the county is currently dispersing approximately 1200 to 1500 doses of Narcan throughout the community per month, of about 20,000 kits that are distributed.

“Every time we are administering Narcan, while we are saving a life and that is critical, we now are creating a need,” Cullen said.

The new funds will cover about 6,000 units of Narcan.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco García said in recent years approximately 50-60% of overdose deaths have been associated with fentanyl. The deputy county administrator called the drug “ubiquitous,” because of its affordability and accessibility.

“The drug of choice for abuse,” Garcia said.

Cullen said that the county is also in the application stage for grant funding from the CDC for its “Overdose Data 2 Action” (OD2A) program.

“This funding has just become available for localities,” Cullen said. “We get a small amount of money from them, approximately $450,000 from the state that we have used to respond to best practices for overdose to action,” she said.

The Board of Health has also been in communication with the county’s administration about the establishment of a multi-agency collaborative effort.

Next fiscal year, the health department plans to hire staff to oversee community outreach efforts addressing mental health and substance misuse throughout the county.

The mayor and city council also approved additional opioid settlements to the One Arizona Agreement during Tuesday’s city council meeting. The request made by the City Manager and City Attorney proposed an Intergovernmental Agreement with Pima County regarding the distribution of opioid settlement funds.

The city will become eligible to receive an additional $8.9 million through the One Arizona Agreement.

City Attorney Mike Rankin says that the proposal works under the existing structure of the One Arizona settlement.

“We thought it would be a good idea just to continue to work within that framework for additional settlement revenues that are ultimately going to come in through these as the litigation continues to play out,” Rankin said.

New nationwide opioid settlements were reached with two pharmaceutical manufacturers, Teva and Allergan as well as three pharmacies, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, in November and December of last year.

In 2015, a community health needs assessment first identified substance misuse and addiction as a priority public health issue for the local community. Since 2017, there have been 2,407 overdose fatalities in Pima County caused by multiple substances. Of those reported by the medical examiner’s office, 991 were fentanyl-related.

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