SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Public Health has received a grant to help 18 rural counties in south-central Illinois hit hardest by the opioid crisis .

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the grant of more than $2 million for the next four years.

Public Health Director Dr. Nirav Shah announced the grant Wednesday. He says rural areas often do not have as many emergency medical providers as more populous areas. So law enforcement officers are often first to arrive at an overdose scene.

Shah says the death rate from overdose in the 18 counties has increased more than 50 percent in the past two years.

Among the grant’s aims is to equip every police agency squad car with naloxone. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose.