Health Care

Bloomberg vows to spend $120M to fight fatal drug overdoses

Michael Bloomberg announced on Wednesday that his eponymous philanthropy is making a $120 million investment to help fight fatal drug overdoses.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will invest $120 million over five-years in Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin to help address the opioid overdose crisis, according to a statement from the group.

The organization said those five states represent areas that have been “hard hit” by the opioid epidemic. They will each receive $10 million over the next five years.

Pennsylvania and Michigan will be allotted an additional $4 million above the first 2018 investment over the next three years.

The group said the states receiving funds from the philanthropy “have a high burden of overdose deaths” and fall within the leading 25 states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additionally, they all saw their overdose deaths increase in 2020.

Wednesday’s pledge, which was unveiled at the 4th Bloomberg American Health Summit, brings the philanthropy’s total investment in the Bloomberg Opioids Overdose Prevention Initiative to $170 million over eight years.

The venture was first launched in 2018 with $50 million.

Bloomberg, the founder of the philanthropy group who previously served as mayor of New York City, called the overdose epidemic “one of the worst public health crises we’ve ever faced.”

“[Two hundred fifty-four] Americans die every single day from drug overdoses. It’s tearing families apart across the country, and we need bolder, nationwide action, especially from the federal government – but we can’t afford to wait until that happens,” he added in a statement.

The philanthropic group said their previous investments in Michigan and Pennsylvania to address the opioid epidemic “saw significant results and including saved over the past three years.” According to data collected by the CDC, overdose deaths in the state had been on the decline before the pandemic.

The large investment comes after the CDC released new data over the summer, which found that U.S. drug overdose deaths had hit a record of more than 93,000 in 2020.

Last year recorded 93,331 overdose deaths, according to the CDC, which was an almost 30 percent increase from the year prior.

The elevated numbers came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were forced to isolate themselves in their homes to stop the spread of the virus. The pandemic also stretched and redirected health care resources to assist with efforts combating the virus.

Of the overdose deaths recorded last year, roughly 69,000 were attributed to opioids.

Bloomberg Philanthropies recognized how the opioid epidemic worsened amid the pandemic, writing that it is expanding the initiative “at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has made the overdose epidemic significantly worse.”

Bloomberg, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) penned an op-ed in The Hill on Wednesday calling for federal support to combat the availability of street-level drugs that are cheap and easily obtained.

The four officials called the existence of those drugs “the leading cause of the overdose epidemic.”

Tags Michael Bloomberg Phil Murphy Tony Evers

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