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Bloomberg pledges $120 million to fight drug overdose epidemic

Then-Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at a campaign event in Providence, Rhode Island, February 5, 2020. (David Goldman/AP)
Then-Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at a campaign event in Providence, Rhode Island, February 5, 2020. (David Goldman/AP)

Michael Bloomberg will spend $120 million in an effort to reduce the soaring numbers of deaths from drug overdoses, he announces at a healthcare summit he organized.

The pledge more than doubles the $50 million philanthropic commitment he made toward the same goal in 2018.

Bloomberg’s pledge follows a preliminary finding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 93,000 people had died from drug overdoses in 2020, the majority of them from using opioids. The number of deaths during the first calendar year of the pandemic grew 30% over the total for 2019 and is the highest for a single year on record.

“We’re clearly going in the wrong direction,” says Kelly J. Henning, who leads the public-health program at Bloomberg’s grant-making organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Henning believes the work supported by Bloomberg’s original commitment, called the Overdose Prevention Initiative, has helped improve the situation.

The philanthropy’s new commitment will provide $10 million a year for five years to programs in Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin. It will also add $4 million each to the continuing efforts in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

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