Opioid addiction is a reality for many. And even if you think you don’t know anyone with this drug problem, the American Society of Addiction Medicine notes 2 million people in the U.S. had a prescription painkiller addiction in 2016. An additional 600,000 people were addicted to heroin.
Prescription painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl are all a part of the opioid crisis. These drugs, along with the street drug heroin, are responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people every year.
In light of this snowballing epidemic of prescription drug abuse, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, MD announced HHS will soon provide $485 million in grants to help states and territories combat opioid addiction, including nearly $5 million for Puerto Rico.
HHS to send funds for prevention and treatment efforts
Opioid addiction treatment is possible, but not without funds. In recent years, the increase in the number of people addicted to painkillers has climbed so drastically, the amount of aid has struggled to keep up.
Between 2002 and 2015 alone, there was a 2.8-fold increase in opioid addiction deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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The new funding, which will be distributed to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and the free associated states of Palau and Micronesia, will provide support for prevention, treatment, and recovery services related to opioid addiction, depending on the needs of recipients.
“As I begin my tenure as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I do so with a profound commitment to addressing this public health crisis as one of our top three Departmental priorities,” Secretary Price wrote in a letter to state governors.
“Opioids were responsible for over 33,000 deaths in 2015; this alarming statistic is unacceptable to me. We cannot continue to lose our nation’s citizens to addiction. 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 funding will be distributed in two phases, provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act, and will focus on properly aligning treatment services with clinically effective and efficient opioid addiction treatment.
HHS has prioritized five specific strategies to fight the opioid epidemic:
- Strengthening public health surveillance
- Advancing the practice of pain management
- Improving access to treatment and recovery services
- Targeting the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
- Supporting cutting-edge research
“To that end, in the coming weeks and months, I will seek your assistance to identify best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that produce measurable results,” concluded Secretary Price in his letter. “Thank you for your collaboration and partnership as we move forward in this critical work together to help the millions of Americans hurt by this public health crisis.”