FILE - This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Accidental overdoses aren't the only deadly risk from using powerful prescription painkillers _ the drugs may also contribute to heart-related deaths and other fatalities, according to research published Tuesday, June 14, 2016. "As bad as people think the problem of opioid use is, it's probably worse," said Wayne Ray, the lead author and a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University's medical school. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot) ORG XMIT: NY647

Toby Talbot

Louisiana is in line to receive $8.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help combat the opioid epidemic.

The grant is part of $485 million the federal government has set aside to help states and territories with prevention, treatment and recovery services needs.

"We cannot continue to lose our nation’s citizens to addiction," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a letter to governors announcing the awards. "Through a sustained focus on people, patients, and partnerships, I am confident that together we can turn the tide on this public health crisis."

The money was distributed to states based on their rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment.

Louisiana has the sixth-highest opioid pain reliever-prescribing rate in the country, according to analysis from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics over a year-long period through June 30, 2016. It found that there were 102.3 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people, when counting new prescriptions and prescribed refills. The national average was 69.5 prescriptions for every 100 people during that period.

The state's drug overdose rate also outpaces the national average, fueled by the rise in prescription opioid abuse and the use of illicit opioids, like heroin, and synthetic black-market opioids, like fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed Louisiana had the 19th highest age adjusted opioid OD rate in 2015.

For the first time in New Orleans history, deaths from accidental drug overdoses surpassed murders last year, attributed largely to the increase in the abuse of heroin and other opioids.

Deaths linked to heroin and synthetic opioid overdoses have also hit record levels in East Baton Rouge Parish in recent years.

“Opioid addiction knows no boundaries. It does not discriminate against age, race, social background, or income. That is why it is more important than ever to join together and fight back against this epidemic that tears families apart,” U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, a Madisonville Republican who serves on the Appropriations subcommittee over HHS. “This money will help increase access to treatment for those suffering and will help put a stop to opioid related deaths.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.