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An arrangement of Percocet pills is shown last year in New York. 

The Department of Justice has awarded Nebraska more than $1.3 million in grant money to combat the opioid crisis.

It comes as part of $320 million the Justice Department awarded nationally to help those most directly impacted by the crisis, including crime victims, children, families and first responders.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the money will go to prevention, treatment and enforcement.

"We are attacking this crisis from every angle — and we will not let up until we bring it to an end," he said in a news release this week.

Nebraska's portion, $1,331,000, will be given to the state's Department of Health and Human Services ($750,000), the Lancaster County Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program ($500,000), and the Sarpy County Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program ($81,000).

The Nebraska HHS grant will focus on strengthening the nation’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and be directed toward improving prescriber enrollment and use of the program; identifying geographic areas of concern, doctor shopping, and problematic prescribing; and supporting interstate data sharing, among other things.

Lancaster County's grant is part of $47.4 million that the Bureau of Justice is awarding to drug courts nationally. Kim Etherton, Community Corrections director, said the grant money will be used to address housing and support services for participants in the Adult Drug Court Program.

A 2017 evaluation of the program, conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Public Policy Center, found participants have medium-to-high needs surrounding employment and high levels of homelessness.

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The program will help with housing by working with two local homeless shelter programs to house five homeless or near-homeless participants 365 days of the year. Case managers also will address permanent housing hurdles and provide support to transition participants to affordable, permanent housing as soon as reasonably possible, Etherton said.

The program also will focus on employment needs, and offering employment support for unemployed and underemployed participants. Etherton said more than two-thirds of Adult Drug Court participants are unemployed when they start and many who are employed are at or below the poverty level.

Additionally, the grant funding and Bureau of Justice technical assistance will support planning for a Medically Assisted Treatment option for Adult Drug Court participants who would benefit from it.

Sarpy County's grant was awarded under a federal program that provides financial and technical help to facilitate collaborations among criminal justice, mental health and substance-abuse treatment systems. The goal is to increase access to mental health and other treatment services for individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance-abuse issues.

Last year, more than 72,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of those deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or

On Twitter @LJSpilger.



Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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