Trending Topics

Responding to an epidemic amid a pandemic: Drug interdiction and opioid response grants

With cities, counties and state agencies increasingly lacking budgeted resources, grant programs are an additional funding source to consider


(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

By PoliceGrantsHelp Staff

It is impossible to escape. Each day, experts and news outlets cover the rising number of opioid-related mortalities and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this ongoing epidemic. The opioid crisis is an epidemic amid a pandemic and should not go unnoticed.

The opioid crisis

The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes the opioid epidemic in three waves. The first wave of overdose deaths in the 1990s involved prescription opioids, and the second wave of overdose deaths, beginning in 2010, involved heroin. The third wave, which began in 2013, involved significant increases in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

However, from 2017 to 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention witnessed a 2% decrease in opioid-involved deaths and a decrease in prescription opioid-involved deaths by 13.5%. Seventeen out of 38 states that were reporting overdose death data saw a decline in deaths. Unfortunately, a 10% increase in synthetic opioid deaths indicated the need for continuing efforts of drug interdiction and opioid response programs.

COVID-19 impact

As the COVID-19 global pandemic continues, more than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorders, according to the American Medical Association. With the effects of the pandemic intensifying the gap between services and those who need it, could we be headed for a fourth wave?

To add to the persistent epidemic, the American Medical Association, in response to increasing local reports by law enforcement agencies, EMS, hospitals and public health agencies, recently urged lawmakers to act; for instance, encouraging more flexibility for evaluation and prescribing requirements using telemedicine.

Undoubtedly, this impact is witnessed firsthand by first responders, including local and state law enforcement agencies. Additionally, responding to the opioid epidemic comes at a cost when implementing drug interdiction and opioid response programs. With cities, counties and state agencies increasingly lacking the budgeted resources, grant programs are an additional funding source to consider.


Below are a few federal grant programs to consider in 2020 and 2021.

Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Site-based Program (COSSAP)

Typically due in the summer, this Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant program provides financial and technical assistance to awardees to “develop, implement, or expand comprehensive efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support those impacted by illicit opioids, stimulants, and other drugs of abuse.” The goal is to reduce the number of overdose fatalities.

A few programs discussed in the solicitation include:

  • Law enforcement and other first responder diversion programs;
  • Education and prevention programs to connect law enforcement agencies with K-12 students;
  • Embedding social services with law enforcement;
  • Naloxone for law enforcement and other first responders.

Comprehensive Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Program

One crucial program that could not take place due to stay-at-home orders was Take Back Day, a day where people could safely dispose of their medications. Without the ability to properly dispose of unused medication, the risk of overdose or relapse increases.

To respond, BJA’s Comprehensive Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Program is now open and is available for state, local, and tribal governments to assist with purchasing drug take-back and disposal equipment, which will enable law enforcement agencies, first responders, or other agencies to destroy unused medicine.

COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program and COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program

Both grant programs are available only to state law enforcement agencies. These programs use funds “for investigative purposes to locate or investigate illicit activities,” either related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine or the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, or the unlawful distribution of prescription opioids.

Outside the box

In addition to federal grant programs, there are additional programs that are not always considered in the search for funding.

Corporate and non-profit foundations serve their communities by offering funding opportunities to expand their efforts. Since they are tied to the community, foundations are aware of the community’s specific needs. If your community is struggling with the opioid crisis, research local and regional foundations, even national foundations, that part of opioid response efforts.

For example, the AmerisourceBergen Foundation recently awarded over 20 organizations to increase access to prescription drug resources and abuse prevention education.

What to expect in 2021

With increasing overdose deaths, an ongoing pandemic, civil unrest and the transition to a new administration, grant programs could see changes in 2021.

There could be additional/new grant programs or early release of opioid response programs.

We could also see changes to reoccurring grant cycles’ solicitations. Changes in legislation could lead to changes in a grant’s deliverables, so remember to review new releases of solicitations closely.

Finally, building partnerships with public health agencies, hospitals, and/or other leading community agencies, will always strengthen your grant application and increase your chances of an award.

The team at PoliceGrantsHelp is always ready to help. Our grant assistance program includes a number of options including grant research, grant writing and grant application review.