President Donald Trump’s $1.8 billion pledge to help states fight the opioid crisis earned cautious celebration from groups on the epidemic’s front lines. “It’s not enough, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Casey Dillon of Advocates for Opioid Recovery, Courthouse News Service reports.
The money pledged by the White House on Wednesday would be split between two programs, with more than $932 million going to prevention and treatment services and another $900 million to help states set up programs to track overdose deaths.
Requirements are flexible for providers seeking prevention and treatment grants, but Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar noted that the addiction-treatment options must include a combination of behavior therapy and medication.
Dillon hailed this distinction, calling medication-assisted treatment the “gold standard” in opioid-abuse treatment. She added that the administration will need strong oversight to make sure the money goes to the right places and should commit to sending more moneyin the future.
Azar said grants for the overdose-tracking program will be given out over three years. Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017 and reaffirmed this policy stance on Wednesday. In 2017, the most recent official data available, more than 47,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids, accounting for more than two-thirds of U.S. drug overdoses that year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted a five percent drop in overdose deaths from all types of drugs between 2017 and 2018 based on preliminary data, the first decline in decades. The agency is predicting another drop in overdose deaths of 3.4 percent from January to 2018 to January 2019.
Additional Reading: Opioid Epidemic Requires Rethinking Federal Drug Policy: Rand, The Crime Report, Aug 29, 2019