The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded over $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help combat the healthcare crisis, including funding to improve the timeliness and quality of surveillance data.
The awards support HHS's Five-Point Opioid Strategy, which was launched last year. According to HHS, new data suggests that efforts are now yielding progress at the national level.
"Addressing the opioid crisis with all the resources possible and the best science we have is a top priority for President Trump and for everyone at HHS,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. "The more than $1 billion in additional funding that we provided this week will build on progress we have seen in tackling this epidemic through empowering communities and families on the frontlines."
"This week, HHS updated its strategic framework for tackling the opioid crisis, which uses science as a foundation for our comprehensive strategy," Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health and Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy, said in a statement. "With these new funds, states, tribes, and communities across America will be able to advance our strategy and continue making progress against this crisis."
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found that the number of Americans initiating heroin use dropped by around half from 2016 to 2017. The number of Americans misusing opioids also dropped for the second year in a row, and the number receiving specialty treatment for heroin use increased.
From January 2017 through August 2018, the amount of opioids prescribed in America has dropped by 21 percent. In the same time, the number of prescriptions filled for naloxone has increased 264 percent, while the number of prescriptions for buprenorphine, one form of medication-assisted treatment, has risen 16 percent (data from IQVIA's Total Patient Tracker).
The opioid crisis claimed more than 130 lives per day in 2017.
As part of the $1 billion in grant announcements, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded more than $930 million in State Opioid Response grants to support a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic and expand access to treatment and recovery support services.
In addition, SAMHSA also awarded about $90 million to other programming for states and communities to expand access to medication-assisted treatment, increase distribution and use of overdose reversal drugs, and increase workforce development activities.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded over $396 million to combat the opioid crisis. The investments will enable HRSA-funded community health centers, academic institutions, and rural organizations to expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $155.5 million to increase support for states and territories working to prevent opioid-related overdoses, deaths, and other outcomes. This funding will advance the understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and scale-up prevention and response activities, including improving the timeliness and quality of surveillance data.
In addition, CDC awarded $12 million in funds to support 11 Tribal Epidemiology Centers and 15 tribal entities. These funds will improve opioid overdose surveillance so that prevention strategies can be targeted to better address this threat to tribal communities.
Other actions by HHS agencies include the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health recently alerted healthcare providers to how they can be expanding access to medication-assisted treatment through telemedicine.
HRSA launched the Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women & New Moms Challenge," which will award prizes to support tech innovations to improve access to substance use disorder treatment, recovery, and support services for pregnant women with opioid use disorders, their infants, and families, especially in rural and geographically isolated areas.