Las Vegas Sun

March 26, 2019

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Nevada seeks to maintain soon-to-end substance abuse prevention funds

Millions in state and federal funding have been pushed toward drug abuse prevention efforts in Nevada, where lawmakers have taken several steps to combat the problem.

A five-year, $2.2 million grant for preventing the abuse of prescription drugs as well as marijuana and methamphetamine use is ending in September. Kyle Devine, chief of the Bureau of Behavioral Health and Wellness and Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services, said the state is pursuing the next block of dollars for preventing alcohol abuse, which can be a risk factor and plans to build in additional elements.

“Opioids are the issue we all know and amphetamines are coming up, but if we can focus on creating healthy communities, and healthy people within those communities by focusing on the public health approach, the specific drug is less important than the community that we all live in,” said Jamie Ross, with the PACT Coalition of Las Vegas, during a recent meeting of the Legislature’s interim health committee.

Devine said the state’s primary source of substance abuse prevention funding comes from a block grant, with 20 percent dedicated to prevention efforts. Most of the prevention funds, he said, goes to prevention coalitions that have comprehensive plans for their communities.

“The science of prevention has come so far from the days of ‘just say no’ and DARE,” Ross said. “There is now an actual science behind the way we do what we do, and in doing so we follow the public health model and we can cover every level of society.”

Alcohol remains an issue for high school students, Devine said. DHHS Office of Analytics data shows that in 2017, more than 26 percent of Nevada high school students drink alcohol. Almost 20 percent use marijuana.

“We know that in schools, with our younger age groups, that alcohol is still a problem as well as marijuana,” he said.

The Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows slight declines from 2013 to 2017 in the number of high school students who report every having used marijuana.

A diverse advisory committee is recommending that the state continue to prioritize opioids, as well as look at stimulants and Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that has been tied to overdoses. Devine said a recent CDC report said Nevada had more amphetamine-related deaths than any other state.

“Although we do not have the data, we do know that Fentanyl could be one of the reasons, with it being embedded within methamphetamines and other products,” Devine told the committee. “With amphetamines, I want to point out that we’re not only talking methamphetamines, but we’re also talking prescription amphetamines.”

Devine said these are often prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and can be misused. He said officials are also looking at ties between substance abuse and suicide.

“These are the priorities that we have set, and the priorities that we will be working with our coalitions and the rest of our partners in the state of Nevada through the next few years,” Devine said.