The Aetna Foundation has announced that it will award $6 million in support of projects identified by state and local leaders as promising or well-suited to addressing critical opioid-related challenges.
As part of its Building Health Communities initiative, the foundation awarded $1 million to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC) in support of its Rural Opioid Overdose Prevention Project, which works to prevent opioid deaths by providing community-level risk education in five rural counties in the state. The initiative also distributes naloxone overdose-reversal kits to assist high-risk opioid users in rural areas and promotes adoption of overdose best practices by law enforcement and healthcare professionals.
In 2010, drug overdoses overtook motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of injury and death in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, an average of four people a day died from drug overdoses in the state in 2016.
"For the first time in our history, our children's generation is not expected to live as long as our own. That is due in large part to the epidemic of opioid abuse, which presents a clear and present threat to our communities and health care resources," said Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation and Aetna's vice president of community health. "The innovative work that the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is doing on the ground is promising, and it's our hope that it can also offer a road map for outreach in other rural communities."
"While this is a national health crisis, there is no single solution that can be applied across the country," said Aetna Foundation board member Harold L. Paz. "These grants will provide important resources to empower local communities to address the unique characteristics of the opioid-related problems they are facing."