COLUMBUS — Ohio didn't hesitate to spend the first round of federal funding targeting the country's opioid crisis, unlike other states that also expanded Medicaid under the national health care law, records show.
State officials spent $19 million, or about 73 percent, of the money Ohio received last year as part of the two-year, nearly $1 billion 21st Century Cures Act grant program, according to an analysis of states' spending by The Associated Press.
That's in contrast to other states that used the money to expand Medicaid, which reported spending less of their allocations than states that didn't expand the health insurance program to poor, childless adults, the AP analysis found.
For example, every state that did not expand Medicaid allocated at least 58.8 percent of its funding to treatment services. Seven of the states that did expand Medicaid dedicated less to treatment.
In Ohio, the state's Mental Health and Addiction Services agency says the state used Cures Act dollars to fill gaps in the state's response to the opioid crisis not covered by Medicaid expansion.
Among the state spending:
• Added quick response teams around Ohio that follow up with surviving overdose victims to help them enter treatment programs.
• Expanded the "PAX Good Behavior Game," an anti-drug abuse curriculum for schoolchildren, across the state.
• Funded programs to train doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in using medication-assisted treatment to battle addiction.
Ohio used the grant money this way because of an established base of existing health care programs, said Dr. Mark Hurst, director of the state's Mental Health and Addiction Services agency.
"This has just been a real boon to us," Hurst said. "It's something that's been really helpful in augmenting what's already been in place."
In total, $479,074,220 was allocated to 55 states and territories (including D.C., Puerto Rico, Palau, Northern Marianas and American Samoa) to spend over the first year of the grant, the AP review found.
The grant money from Congress is part of the two-year, nearly $1 billion 21st Century Cures Act grant program, which also includes a second year of funding that has already been allocated to states.
Ohio received $26 million for each of the two years of the grant program.