The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is awarding $155 million in new funding for support of states, territories, tribes and non-governmental organizations working to prevent the growing incidence of opioid-related deaths and overdoses.
The funding, released Wednesday (Sept. 19), comes after the Trump administration released an in-depth analysis of 2016 U.S. overdose data showing that the opioid epidemic was spreading geographically and increasing across all demographic groups, killing 63,632 Americans in that one year. That study also confirms that recent increases in drug overdose deaths are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
“This epidemic is the public health crisis of our time – and we are losing far too many Americans each day from opioid overdoses,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “These funds will provide critically needed resources to those on the frontlines of the fight against the opioid overdose epidemic.”
The window for organizations to apply for expanding funding, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services five-point strategy to fight the opioid epidemic, begins immediately and ends Aug. 31, 2019. CDC received the increase in appropriations under the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriation Act.
The HHS research and disease control group has also allotted $12 million in funds to support 11 Tribal Epidemiology Centers and 15 tribal entities. These supplemental funds are intended to improve opioid overdose surveillance so that prevention strategies can be targeted to better address this threat to tribal communities, where the rate of drug overdose deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives is above the national average and trending higher in 2018.
“CDC’s role in this fight is to move data into action to prevent opioid overdoses. CDC is committed to equipping states, territories, tribal communities, and non-governmental organizations with resources to reverse the opioid overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Debra Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
In conjunction with the new CDC funding, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a digital postcard, calling for a “cultural shift” in the way Americans talk about the opioid crisis and called for further actions that can prevent and treat opioid misuse and promote recovery.
“Addiction is a brain disease that touches families across America – even my own,” said Adams, noting that opioid overdose deaths jumped by 10% in 2017. “We need to work together to put an end to stigma.”
Just over a year ago, President Donald Trump and U.S. healthcare policymakers addressed the nation’s growing opioid epidemic after a CDC study showed that the Arkansas prescription drug problem is so serious there are enough pills on the street for each of Arkansas’ almost 3 million citizens to have a full bottle. That report, released in July 2017, showed all but nine of Arkansas’ 75 counties had overall opioid prescribing rates higher than the national average of 66.5 prescriptions per 100 people. As a state, Arkansas has an opioid prescription rate of 114.6 per 100, which is second only to Alabama’s 2016 average of 121 per 100 people.
A month later, Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a “national emergency,” which allows the federal government to funnel more funding and resources for research, prevention, treatment and research. However, at an “opioid summit” held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in June, Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said the state and nation still isn’t doing enough to combat the growing problem.
“The biggest thing that Arkansas needs to do is be adaptable to change. What we have been doing for a long time is not working,” said Lane, adding that “If we loaded up an airplane with 175 people and crashed it every day, how long would it take until we shut down the airline?”
Just this past week, Arkansas’ congressional delegation announced that the Community Health Centers of Arkansas would receive nearly $3 million for substance abuse and mental health treatment. Those funds will be shared with 11 healthcare centers across the state to fight the opioid epidemic in Arkansas.
CDC has developed and released a new resource for primary care providers, medical practices, and healthcare systems, which provides a framework for managing patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain. The resource is available online along with a supplementary resource toolkit, fact sheets and webinars.
Link here for more information on the new funding for the opioid overdose prevention efforts.