October 5th, 2023 - The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), a membership organization representing the interests of the country’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is providing funding and technical assistance for overdose prevention work as part of its Implementing Overdose Response Strategies at the Local Level (IOPSLL) project.
Overdose deaths are a critical public health issue and remain one of the leading causes of injury-related death in the United States, with numbers rapidly increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 between May 2020 and April 2021, with the majority of deaths involving opioids. One recent report warns that without intervention, an estimated 1.2 million opioid overdose deaths will occur from 2020 to 2029. While these numbers alone are staggering, they fail to capture the many thousands more who have experienced a non-fatal overdose, live with an opioid use disorder, or are mourning the loss of a loved one to this crisis. Furthermore, local health departments and their partners who are working tirelessly to support their communities are carrying enormous grief from the sustained losses as well as the need to constantly push back against pervasive stigma.
The complex and changing nature of the overdose epidemic highlights the need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and cohesive public health approach. Additionally, intentional collaboration with populations disproportionally impacted by overdose as well as meaningful engagement with people with lived and living experience with drug use are critical to achieving lasting and equitable progress. The IOPSLL program aims to increase the capacity of local health departments to respond to overdose in their communities by supporting the implementation or expansion of critical programs. For example, IOPSLL supports strategies that increase access to overdose prevention tools such as naloxone or fentanyl test strips, build partnerships with harm reduction champions in the community such as syringe service programs, and/or address drug-related stigma, such as through media campaigns and provider training.
Awardees are using evidence-based and evidence-informed approaches to reduce overdose-related harms in their respective jurisdictions. IOPSLL is in its fourth year of funding and currently funds 26 local health departments to advance overdose prevention strategies such as harm reduction, linkage to care, public health and public safety partnerships, anti-stigma and communications, improved data and surveillance, and provider and health systems support.
Local health departments and their community partners have been the driving force behind the IOPSLL program as their teams work diligently to prevent overdoses and advance the health and safety of people who use drugs in their community every day. NACCHO is proud to share the ways in which these local health departments have utilized their IOPSLL funding to prevent and respond to overdose.
NACCHO recently had the opportunity to sit down with Heather Flanagan and Christine Schippert from Orange County Health Services Department to discuss the vital work they do for overdose prevention through the ISOPSLL project. Flanagan and Schippert work together to reduce barriers, increase resources, and connect community members to the services they need. To read more about Orange County’s work, check out the full blog post here.