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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The opioid crisis is a public health emergency, and there are local organizations working to combat it. 

“In the U.S. this last year in 2017 there were approximately 72,000 overdose deaths in our country and that includes people that have died from drug overdoses right here in our state,” UMKC Senior Program Coordinator Dr. Debbie Richardson said.

Richardson works to fight this epidemic through the UMKC Targeted Response Technical Assistance Program.

“Our collaborative effort addresses these issues at a number of different levels and we serve as both a national coordinating center for addressing addiction and technical assistance nationwide,” Richardson said.

But she knows it will take a lot more than work from just education and research institutions to get a handle on this problem.

“I think that with help from community, states or government agencies, private organizations, community coalitions and more, we can address this issue in the most effective way possible with the most current research-based practices and really make a difference,” Richardson said.

Now, with help from the federal government, several smaller agencies will be able to do a lot more when it comes to preventing drug use, specifically among youth.

“This is a Drug-Free Communities Grant, we call it a DFC grant. That grant provides $125,000 per year up to 10 years of funding,” Vicky Ward, Prevention Services manager for Tri-County Mental Health Services said.

Liberty Alliance For Youth, Excelsior Springs Safe, Lee’s Summit Cares, and Smithville Community In Action Coalition have all received grants through this program and can begin using the money in October.

“The DFC grant can also cover the salary of someone working specifically so instead of my staff having to spend time among 20 coalitions, they have somebody that’s  part time employee of that coalition who is dedicated just to helping achieve those goals written in that grant,” Ward said.

Tri-County Mental Health Services helps oversee these coalitions and applied for this grant on their behalf.

“We’re able to do high level programming that we simply cannot do without those funds,” Ward said.

Tri-County Mental Health says it’s working with a coalition in the Park Hill School District area right now, and hopes that it will be the next to receive funding for this prevention program.