ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s largest supplier of the lifesaving opioid overdose antidote naloxone will no longer receive state support for its efforts.
The state Department of Human Services will allocate $1 million in federal grant money to five community agencies over the next year to provide naloxone kits and training to those who need them. The money comes from a two-year, $17.7 million grant that Minnesota received to fight the opioid crisis.
Valhalla Place, which distributed 28,000 naloxone kits that reversed a total of 3,011 opioid overdoses last year, will receive no new grant money. The community supplier serves everyone from addicts and families to homeless shelters and reservations.
“The scale that Valhalla Place was at for the past few years is not going to be the scale that we’re at going forward,” said Stephanie Devich, who oversees naloxone distribution for Valhalla Place. The organization received $400,000 over the past two years from a previous federal opioid response grant.
Naloxone distributors like Valhalla and the Steve Rummler HOPE Network say their efforts have contributed to a decrease in opioid-related deaths. There were 331 opioid overdose deaths last year, down from 422 in 2017, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the state Health Department.
To ensure that enough naloxone was available while new contracts were finalized, DHS sent Valhalla $54,000 in unspent funding from the previous grant on July 1. Valhalla distributed 1,000 naloxone kits over the past month in response to a recent spike in drug overdoses, Devich said.
Devich is trying to find money within her organization to continue distribution. Valhalla is a for-profit entity.
Where the money is going
DHS is directing half of the new grant money to organizations that will serve Native American communities.
Here’s where the money for naloxone distribution will go:
•Minneapolis-based Red Door Clinic, which provides sexual health care, will receive $250,000 to distribute naloxone to residents in Native American and other diverse communities.
•The Indigenous Peoples Task Force, which serves Native Americans across the state, will receive about $231,000 for naloxone distribution.
•Rural Aids Action Network will receive $275,000. It reaches people in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Mankato area and St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties.
•Lutheran Social Services will receive about $94,000 to target youth who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
•Steve Rummler HOPE Network will get $150,000 to raise awareness about overdoses and where to get naloxone. The organization will also expand its naloxone distribution.
The Indigenous Peoples Task Force will provide naloxone kits and training to members of the state’s 11 tribal communities, said executive director Sharon Day.
“Every single one of them is being affected by the opioid crisis,” Day said.
State won't detail Valhalla cuts
The money was distributed through a competitive grant process. DHS officials would not say why Valhalla Place did not receive funding.
“The opioid crisis is far from over, and continues to harm families and communities,” DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey said in a statement. “The State Opioid Response grants will help save lives through partnerships with community agencies to build on ongoing work, expand services and increase the availability of emergency response drugs such as Naloxone.”
Lexi Reed Holtum, executive director of the Steve Rummler HOPE Network, said her group is getting “significantly less” than it requested. Even less than the $200,000 it received for naloxone distribution under the previous federal opioid response grant.
The Steve Rummler HOPE Network distributed 11,000 naloxone kits last year, making it the state’s second-largest community supplier of the overdose antidote. Reed Holtum said the new money will only cover the distribution of half as many naloxone kits; part of the funding is earmarked for the group to train people to use naloxone, either in-person or online.
“It is very stressful for those of us who have spent the last five years building models, to not continue to be assured that … the things that we have put into place are going to be sustainable,” Reed Holtum said.