$30 million SAMHSA grant could boost Florida’s harm reduction programs


Nicole Pasia


A first-of-its-kind grant program under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will provide nearly $30 million over three years to support community-based harm reduction services at the state, local, and tribal government levels. 


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Nationwide overdose deaths reached over 100,000 during a 12-month period for the first time, SAMHSA reported. In Florida, overdose deaths have increased statewide over the last year, including in Tampa Bay, Ocala, and Jacksonville, which saw a 2,000% increase over the last six years. 

The funds can support a wide range of harm reduction services, including the distribution of sterile syringes, prevention education, and support for certified recovery peer specialists. In Florida, one course of treatment that could benefit from the grant is the distribution of Naloxone, an emergency treatment to combat an active overdose.

State data shows that Naloxone distribution increased in 2020, from 9,949 people in the first quarter to 11,726 in the third quarter. That comes up to 33,199 total lives saved from potential overdoses that year via Naloxone. Harm reduction experts have advocated to expand the treatment’s bandwidth in Florida, particularly for smaller communities with less resources.

Applications for the Harm Reduction Grant Program opened this month, and will close on Feb. 7, 2021. In September, Florida received approximately $4.3 million from SAMHSA to specifically support overdose response and substance use disorder screening programs. The Harm Reduction Grant Program will specifically focus on bolstering more preventative services. Gayle Giese, president of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Coalition says localizing and integrating behavioral health and substance use disorder treatments into primary care will lead to better health outcomes. 

“If we can integrate health care, and people don’t have to navigate two systems—behavioral health for one and then going and dealing with your diabetes somewhere else—you can go to the same place for all those things, then people will get better care.”

Applications for the Harm Reduction Grant Program are available here.