Administration Awards Millions in Opioid Grants While Reiterating Calls for New Funds

Two Obama administration officials again asked Congress to approve the $1.1 billion that President Obama has requested to respond to the opioid epidemic, while announcing more than $50 million in grant money for states and American Indian tribes.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia a combined $53 million in grants to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders and ultimately aimed at reducing the number of opioid-related deaths. The various grants being awarded focus on HHS’s three priorities for addressing the surge of opioid use in the U.S.: providing training and education to prescribers; increasing the use and access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose; and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are awarding six grants between them. States had to apply for the grants, which were awarded based in part on data about the rates of abuse and treatment in different states.

Among other things, the grants provide funding to help states evaluate prevention efforts, and for Naloxone and medication-assisted treatments.

Still, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said the department needs additional funding. President Obama earlier this year called on Congress to provide $1.1 billion for the opioid crisis. He begrudgingly signed an opioid package authorizing millions of dollars into law this summer, but called on Congress to quickly pass funding.

“We’re going to continue to advocate for the treatment people need, Burwell told reporters on a call Tuesday previewing the grant announcement. “Grants are an important step forward, and we hope congressional leaders will help us take the next step.”

While the administration has continually called on Congress to provide new funding for the epidemic, the administration has awarded some funding to address opioid use this year, such as providing funding to health centers in different states and expanding the high intensity drug trafficking program.

Both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees have proposed significant increases to the amount of funding to be provided in the upcoming fiscal year, though both have proposed amounts shy of $1.1 billion.

Michael Botticelli, director of national drug control policy, echoed Burwell’s call. Many communities face a lack of resources to provide treatment to a growing number of people who want it, he said.

“Too many people are seeking treatment and not able to find it in their communities. This is exactly why we need Congress to step up and provide the critical funding the President is requesting,” Botticelli said. “We need Congress to act on the $1.1 billion funding request so that we can expand access to treatment and move our country form crisis to recovery.”

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