CORRECTION Opioid Crisis Purdue

WDEL file

Delaware health officials announced how they plan to spend revenue from an impact fee being charged to manufacturers of opioids.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services said that $700,000 in opioid impact fee proceeds will be put to towards a series of programs, including addiction, treatment, and recovery.

The first-in-the-nation impact fee charges 1 cent for each morphine milligram equivalent (MME) used in prescribed opioids outside of use in hospitals. The fee drops to 1/4 cent per MME for generic drugs.

Officials said during a Tuesday virtual news conference that a 10mg oxycodone pill, the most widely prescribed in Delaware, works out to about 15 cents per pill. That drops to about 4 cents for a generic equivalence. 

Delaware has averaged about $500,000 per quarter in the 15 months since the 2019 General Assembly passed the impact fee, although there has been a steady drop in revenue.

In the third quarter of 2019, drug makers were charged a combined $547,369, while in the same time frame of this year, that amount dropped to $475,638. Delaware leads the nation in prescription rate for high-dose opioids, so the reduced fee implies there may be less opioids entering from the prescription market.

That money is required to go into a Prescription Opioid Impact Fund, according to Lt. Government Bethany Hall-Long.

"Getting resources, front-line, long-term, continuum treatment services will absolutely help us to lower the rate of overdose deaths."

The first $700,000 will be be split into four categories:

  • $300,000 will be combined with federal grant money to expand Bridge Clinics, which exist during regular business hours to help those discharged from hospitals get additional care, but Hall-Long said needs to become 24/7 "because that's when the family, friends, and members of our community need it."
  • $250,000 is earmarked for helping those recovering find transportation and housing to expedite treatment
  • $100,000 will go towards administrative costs when it comes to collecting the fee
  • $50,000 will purchase 925 additional naloxone kits

Alexis Teitelbaum, DHSS Acting Director, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said those kits will supplement 6,300 naloxone kits distributed in the first nine months of 2020.

"Try to provide the naloxone to individuals' family and friends who may be with those individuals so they can hopefully administer that naloxone and hopefully save a life."

While leading in prescription rate for high-dose, Delaware is in the top 20 states for overall opioid prescriptions per capital and the top five for most overdose deaths per capita.

It's why Hall-Long said the fee and measures are needed in Delaware.

"It is really about saving lives. The naloxone is harm-reduction. It's about restoring people's hope and dignity and providing those additional wrap-around services when they previously didn't have those."

Officials said their next task is to sort out how to spend the estimated $1.8 of 2.5 million they expect the fee to have raised when all the bills are collected from 2020.

Anyone struggling with a behavioral health crisis can call the state's 24/7 hope line at 1.833.9-HOPEDE to talk to a trained professional or click here.