The legislative Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved programs to help the state deal with the opioid epidemic.
The programs were proposed by Attorney General Adam Laxalt and backed by the governor’s office using $1.9 million in settlement money.
The money is part of the $5.3 million Nevada received from the Volkswagen emissions settlement.
Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said he first proposed legislation to deal with opioids a dozen years ago and he was glad to see the growing attention the issue is now receiving.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Nevada will get $500,000 and the Nevada Statewide Partnerships $676,000 to implement prevention programs targeting at-risk children to keep them from getting addicted to opioids.
Another $307,697 will be used to purchase five incinerators to be installed around the state to destroy drugs that are either seized or turned in by individuals so they aren’t just thrown away or flushed down the drain.
In addition, there’s $250,000 to buy Naloxone/Narcan, a drug that can rapidly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Finally, the committee approved funding for a new investigator to join a newly formed federal task force investigating opioid abuse including by doctors guilty of over prescribing those pain killers. The funding will support that position for the coming five years.
Laxalt was questioned by several lawmakers about whether the prevention program was targeting areas that have the highest rates of opioid abuse. They specifically pointed to North Las Vegas which Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, said is two hours walking distance from the nearest Boys & Girls Clubs. He said his office is open to suggestions where they can add programming in the future. Lawmakers were told there will still be an estimated $1.5 million in that settlement fund after these programs are approved that could be used for additional programming.
Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, who’s a fire paramedic, questioned whether officials were able to manage the distribution of those drugs, some of which were unused until they expired.
He was told the shelf life of Narcan is just 24 months so the division of Behavioral Health is buying the drugs based on actual need and utilization.
A total of $1.14 million will be spent immediately to get the programs running with $700,000 more in fiscal 2019 to continue them.
IFC also approved moving $2.5 million in fire suppression money from FY2019 to this fiscal year to cover the high cost of battling wildfires this year.
Acting State Forester K.C. Kasey told the committee more than 1.2 million acres burned in Nevada this year, the third highest total ever behind 2006 and 1999. She said there were 732 fires reported in the state this year, more than double the five year average.