As the crisis of substance use and overdose deepens, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to consider this epidemic a top priority. An emergency with significant impact on both public safety and public health, drug overdose deaths are the concern not only of first responders, but also of child welfare, victim service providers, behavioral health systems, and the criminal justice system as a whole. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) administers a central part of DOJ’s response to this multifaceted crisis: the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that the United States saw more drug overdose deaths in 2020 than ever before. An estimated 93,331 deaths from drug overdoses occurred last year, an increase of 29.4 percent from the 72,151 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2019. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics noted that “overdose deaths from opioids increased from 50,963 in 2019 to 69,710 in 2020. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in 2020 compared to 2019.”
COSSAP provides financial and technical assistance to states, units of local government, and Indian tribal governments to develop and implement comprehensive efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support those impacted by illicit opioids, stimulants, and other drugs. The program emphasizes partnership and collaboration across the public health, behavioral health, and public safety sectors. Effective community responses supported by the program leverage the combined expertise of each of these disciplines and rely on unified and coordinated strategies.
Just three months ago, BJA announced the disbursal of nearly $700,000 through COSSAP to launch the Comprehensive Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Program, which will help eight jurisdictions across the country purchase drug disposal and collection equipment.
BJA’s cross-sector partnership demonstration sites promote collaboration and enhance information sharing. These multidisciplinary collaborations facilitate the sharing of timely and accurate data and enable public safety, public health, and behavioral health agencies to leverage their distinct and complementary roles and capabilities to respond effectively to the opioid crisis and other emerging drug threats.
These demonstration projects strengthen the data collection and analytic capabilities of public safety, public health, and behavioral health agencies. This initiative also enhances the ability of these communities to implement coordinated and tailored rapid responses to reduce overdose deaths. We’re proud of the work of these demonstration sites and of all our COSSAP grantees and look forward to supporting more innovative, life-saving work in coming years.
 National Center for Health Statistics, “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts,” 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm.
 Brian Tsai, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Up Nearly 30% in 2020,” NCHStats: A Blog of the National Center for Health Statistics, Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, July 14, 2021, https://nchstats.com/category/drug-overdose-deaths/.