The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task force got word this week that the state will fund the education and prevention initiative with an additional $700,000 grant over the next seven years. In a press release, state health officials said the grant, which is part of $2.9 million in grant awards to 31 community level programs, will dramatically expand the availability of substance abuse prevention services and programs with a focus on opioid abuse.

In the past, the youth task force has used the state grant to focus almost exclusively on preventing alcohol abuse, with long-term educational initiatives aimed at grade school and high school students.

It is unclear how the new round of grant funding will address the immediate problem of a spike in opioid overdose deaths on Martha’s Vineyard, and other Massachusetts communities.

According to state police, there were 217 heroin overdose deaths in Massachusetts in January, February, and March, a dramatic increase over previous years. The statistics do not include Boston, Worcester or Springfield, so the actual number of heroin related deaths is almost certainly higher.

“We are expanding our efforts working on multiple substances, underage drinking, opioids, marijuana,” said task force coordinator Theresa Manning. “To look at issues like this in our community takes some time. This is seven years of funding. Some of the work we’re very familiar with, but this gives us more resources to focus on this issue.”

“This is a new grant,” said Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokesman Scott Zoback, “with the objective of preventing drug use with a strong focus on opioids, including other factors like underage drug use, which contribute to opioid use. This grant widens the scope of prevention work.”

State health officials said Martha’s Vineyard was among the communities chosen for the grant along with those on Cape Cod, and in western Massachusetts, that are historically under served by prevention programs

“As we work closely with our municipal and medical leaders to combat opioid abuse, these resources are important to addressing the problem early and before it begins,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in the May 18 press release. “The effectiveness of these programs and the example they set for our young people will be critical as we work with all our partners to prevent the tragedies that have already impacted too many of our commonwealth’s families.”