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Michael Bloomberg gives $50 million to help 'alarming' opioid crisis

The charity of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday it's giving $50 million to fight the opioid crisis in the United States.

Bloomberg Philanthropies said the money is being given through a partnership with Vital Strategies, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The alliance will focus on identifying approaches and gaps in current treatment and prevention programs, and work closely with officials and experts to evaluate and track the impact of new interventions.

The announcement Friday was made at the inaugural Bloomberg American Health Summit in Washington, D.C., which seeks to spur innovation among healthcare innovators for some of the nation's greatest health challenges.

"We are experiencing a national crisis: For the first time since World War I, life expectancy in the U.S. has declined over the past three years -- and opioids are a big reason why," Bloomberg, the city's mayor between 2002 and 2013 and new Democrat, said.

"We cannot sit by and allow this alarming trend to continue -- not when so many Americans are being killed in what should be the prime of their lives. Today we are launching a groundbreaking new partnership."

The CDC said Thursday more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year using illicit and legal opioids -- a two-fold increase over the last decade. Its studies said life expectancy in the United States fell from 76.2 in 2016 to 76.1 in 2017, partly due to the highly-addictive opioids.

"That is the highest drug death toll in American history -- by far," Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told law enforcement officials in northern Kentucky Friday. "That's roughly the size of the population of Canton, Ohio, dead in just one year from drug overdoses.

"This is a daunting situation."

Whitaker said the federal government's new efforts to fight synthetic fentanyl trafficking -- particularly from China -- have been working.

The Justice Department and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration called in August for a reduction next year in the manufacture of the controlled substances.

"This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA's production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the amount of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine," DEA acting administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement.

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