With $500 million in hand to fight the opioid epidemic, White House officials are moving quickly to get that money flowing to the hardest-hit states and pushing local officials to spend the aid on treatment above other addiction-related initiatives, USA Today reports. The opioid funding came as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, a sweeping medical innovation bill that President Obama signed yesterday. Congress agreed to devote another $500 million next year to combat what has become a public health crisis, with nearly 80 Americans dying every day from opioid overdoses.
Michael Botticelli, the White House “drug czar,” said states will have some flexibility to use the anti-addiction money for prevention and recovery support. Expanding treatment, particularly in rural areas where health providers are scarce, will be an overriding focus as the Obama administration doles out money. More than 80 percent of Americans who need opioid addiction treatment do not have access to services, with many languishing on waiting lists, hoping they don’t overdose in the interim. “We really want to make sure … states use these resources to really close that treatment gap,” Botticelli said. “No matter where you live, you shouldn’t have to travel long distances or wait weeks or months to get treatment.” Federal officials in charge of substance abuse programs will start seeking state funding applications soon, he said, but it’s unclear how quickly the Obama administration can get that money out the door. The applications will be reviewed and approved by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.