Portland’s Public Health Division has been selected as a recipient of a $4 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the agency’s Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) program.
The CDC’s OD2A program was launched in 2019, awarding 66 grants to state, territorial, county, and city health departments.
This month, the CDC awarded new five-year cooperative agreements to 90 jurisdictions under two programs, one designed for states, and one designed for localities and territories which Portland received.
The OD2A program focuses on data collection via a surveillance infrastructure, as well as harm reduction and prevention strategies, such as naloxone distribution and syringe service programs.
Maine CDC partners with several nonprofits in order to distribute clean syringes to individuals with a substance abuse disorder in exchange for dirty ones — in 2022, the program distributed and collected almost 2.5 million syringes statewide.
The City of Sanford suspended its syringe exchange program in July due to the harm it was causing to local businesses by discarded hypodermic needles and harassment of employees by opioid addicts near the needle exchange.
Portland city officials have told business owners across from one of the city’s largest homeless encampments and open air drug markets on Marginal Way that the city cannot allocate resources to assist in helping businesses clean up needles or human excrement on their property.
According to the Maine Drug Data Hub, there have been a total of 88 confirmed or suspected fatal overdoses in Cumberland County from January to July of this year, the largest number of any Maine county.
“Portland Public Health is grateful for the support of and partnership with the CDC,” said Alfredo Vergara, Portland Director of Public Health in a Friday press release. “We are proud to share this mission and effort to prevent overdoses and protect the well-being of our community. This grant will make a lasting impact and provide hope to those affected by substance use disorders.”
With this CDC grant, the city wrote, Portland will be able to respond “more quickly, effectively, and equitably to residents’ needs, using data to drive action to reduce overdose deaths and related harms.”
“We are thrilled to award this grant to Portland’s Public Health Division and support their continued effort to prevent drug overdose and improve the lives of residents,” said CDC Division of Overdose Prevention Director Grant Baldwin.
“Through the OD2A program, CDC is empowering jurisdictions with the necessary tools and resources to collect, analyze, and use data to inform prevention activities that make a significant impact in communities,” Baldwin said.