Nation

Bloomberg announces $50 million to fight opioid epidemic

Michael Bloomberg
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press/file
Michael Bloomberg

WASHINGTON — Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charity has announced a $50 million donation to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said over the next three years it will help up to 10 states address the causes of opioid addiction and strengthen prevention and treatment programs. Its initiative involves a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University, and Vital Strategies.

Bloomberg said Friday during his keynote address at The Bloomberg American Health Summit in Washington that he believes ‘‘we can turn the tide on this epidemic.’’

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‘‘And if we do,’’ he said, ‘‘we can begin reversing the decline in life expectancy that has been happening across the country, thanks largely to opioid overdoses.’’

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Pennsylvania will be the first state to get funding and will receive at least $10 million. Pennsylvania had the highest number of drug overdose deaths in 2017 among all states and twice as many as in 2014. Nearly 5,400 Pennsylvania residents died of drug overdoses in 2017.

Pennsylvania’s rate of 44.3 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents is more than double the national average.

Bloomberg has been considering a 2020 Democratic presidential bid, but a spokeswoman said there was ‘‘no stated link’’ between his political aspirations and the $50 million investment to fight opioids.

Bloomberg’s charity said CDC data show there were more than 70,000 US drug overdose deaths last year, including more than 47,000 from opioids, the highest numbers on record. It said those numbers are a leading factor in the decline of US life expectancy over the past three years.

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Bloomberg called the sobering numbers part of ‘‘a national crisis.’’

‘‘For the first time since World War I, life expectancy in the US has declined over the past three years — and opioids are a big reason why,’’ he said. ‘‘We cannot sit by and allow this alarming trend to continue — not when so many Americans are being killed in what should be the prime of their lives.’’

He said in a statement he hoped his charity’s work in Pennsylvania, one of the states hardest hit by the opioids crisis, would lay the groundwork ‘‘for more effective action across the country.’’