Vt. Health Dept Awarded $9.5 Million From Feds To Improve Overdose Data Collection

Sep 3, 2019

The Vermont Health Department is getting a three-year, $9.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control to improve its tracking of opioid overdoses.

Sen. Patrick Leahy announced the grant award at a press conference in Burlington. Leahy, Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he’s worked to increase CDC funds aimed at addressing overdoses.

“I helped to put in $350 million over the past two years, throughout the country,” Leahy said. “It allows states to strengthen prevention activities.”

The state health department will use the grant for a variety of projects, including improving the its system for tracking drug prescriptions and providing more overdose prevention training statewide.

The health department will also use the money to strengthening data collection at emergency departments, said Commissioner Mark Levine.

"We can look at emergency department data to better understand the circumstances of opioid overdoses and deaths ... " — Mark Levine, Vt. Health Commissioner

"We can look at emergency department data to better understand the circumstances of opioid overdoses and deaths and use fatality data to examine where these people who died by overdose had interactions with state systems to inform prevention efforts,” he said.

Vermont's annual tally of fatal opioid overdoses has increased each of the past three years. Some of the grant will be directed to overdose prevention programs in Bennington, Rutland, Windham and Windsor — all counties with high opioid overdose rates.

So far this year, the number of fatal overdoses is slightly lower than where it was at this time last year. In the first six months of 2018, there were 55 fatal overdoses, compared to 46 this year, according to preliminary data from the health department.