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City of St. Louis to get nearly $1M DOJ grant to combat opioid crisis

ST. LOUIS - Nearly a million dollars in new federal grant money is coming to fight the opioid crisis in the City of St. Louis.

The Board of Aldermen and Board of Estimate and Apportionment both have to approve the use of the grant money.

That is expected to happen soon.

City leaders hope this new program will help combat what they call an epidemic and a public health crisis.

“We`ve seen a dramatic increase in opioid overdoses in our city,” says Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed.

He is co-sponsoring the legislation for the grant money.

The funds are from the Justice Department and total nearly $983,000.

The money...sorely needed in the city`s fight.

Opioid overdose deaths in the city are six times higher than a decade ago.

In 2016...273 people died in St. Louis.

Last year...there were 256.

The numbers this year are still being compiled.

And the expenses for St. Louis city EMS crews and firefighters for the drug Narcan to help overdose victims are skyrocketing...more than $365,000 since August of 2016.

“The opioid issue is a serious issue in the city...It is breaking families apart,” said Reed.

The city health department will administer the grant.

More than $760,000 will be used to create a unified computer database system to collect information on overdoses.

Right now, Reed says such a system does not exist in the city.

He believes collecting data like knowing where people overdose will help formulate a strategy to combat the crisis.

“To begin to share data across all platforms and to begin to share resources across all platforms seamlessly, it`s important to have them on one unified system,” explained Reed.

The rest of the money will be used for what`s called a community resource response team.

Craig Schmid with the St. Louis Health Department says the team will help overdose victims who refuse to go to the hospital when EMS crews treat them at scenes.

Workers from the city and state health departments will also be at those scenes to offer those who overdose help...everything from food to housing even recovery services.

“It`s going to save lives and that clearly is what we care about. This is the goal of this grant and of this effort is to save lives,” said Schmid.

The deadline for city leaders to dot the I`s and cross the T`s for the grant money is November 9th.

The program could be up and running by early next year.