The Department of Justice announced Friday that it will give $58.8 million in grants to address the nationwide opioid epidemic and strengthen drug court programs.
"Today, we are announcing that we will be awarding millions in federal grants to help law enforcement and public health agencies address prescription drug and opioid abuse," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "This is an urgent problem and we are making it a top priority."
The department will award approximately $24 million to 50 cities, counties, and public health departments to help fund the creation of diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration for opioid users. The funds, from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse program, are focused on addressing the abuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids, as well as reducing crime.
The department will further award $22.2 million to 53 jurisdictions to support the setting up and development of adult drug courts and veterans treatment corps. An additional $9.5 million will go to funding juvenile drug courts through the office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention grant programs. Drug courts divert drug addicts, keeping them in treatment while providing oversight. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals calls them "the most effective justice intervention for treating drug-addicted people."
An additional $3.1 million will be awarded for research on drugs and crime, prioritizing research into heroin, other opioids, and synthetic drugs.
"Today, we are facing the deadliest drug crisis in American history," said Sessions. "These trends are shocking and the numbers tell us a lot– but they aren’t just numbers. They represent moms and dads, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. And make no mistake combatting this poison is a top priority for President Trump and his administration, and you can be sure that we are taking action to address it."
Nearly 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, an increase from the estimated 52,000 in 2015. The majority of those deaths, the Justice Department claimed, can be attributed to opioids. Drug overdose is now the number one cause of death for Americans under 50.