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States Gain $1.8 Billion to Fight Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON — The Trump Administration announced $1.8 billion in grants to state and local partners to help respond to the opioid crisis.

During a press briefing Wednesday at the White House, President Trump stated that “nothing is more important than defeating the opioid and addiction crisis.”

The funds were appropriated by Congress in 2018, and will expand access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) and mental health services, as well as support state and local government in gathering “high quality, comprehensive data,” Trump said.

The administration is ready to use “every resource at our disposal to smash the grip of addiction,” he stated.

During a Wednesday press call, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, credited the president with helping to reduce opioid prescriptions by 31%; with increasing the number of Americans who receive MAT by 38% (from 921,000 in 2016 to 1.27 million in 2019); and with a 378% increase in naloxone prescriptions.

Azar said “we are truly headed in the right direction for the first time since this crisis arose,” pointing to a 5% nationwide drop in “provisional drug overdose death counts,” and calling it the first such decline in 2 decades.

Azar outlined the two main funding streams: $932 million in State Opioid Response Grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will target all 50 states and several territories, and will be used to help communities in delivering prevention, treatment, and recovery services, Azar said.

“That can mean everything from expanding the use of [MAT] in criminal justice settings, or in rural areas via telemedicine, to youth focused community-based prevention efforts, recovery supports, like employment coaching, and support for the distribution of naloxone,” he added.

A core criteria for eligibility of the grants is that treatment providers must make MAT available, which Azar called “the gold standard of treatment for opioid addiction.”

The second funding stream will be from the CDC, and will total $900 million over a 3-year period, with $301 million released in year 1. Funds will be directed toward efforts to help states and local government track overdose data “in a timely and comprehensive way,” and to steer people who have overdosed into treatment, he said.

Azar noted that, since the president took office, the CDC accelerated its reporting of overdose data nationally, shrinking the time to publication from 12-months to 6 months due to “better reporting from local health departments.”

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, also praised the president’s handling of the crisis on the press call, citing a public awareness campaign that she claimed has reached 58% of young adults in the U.S.

“Last year alone, 113,000 fewer adolescents and 153,000 fewer young adults started misusing prescription painkillers than in 2016. Nearly 60% fewer young adults began using heroin in 2018 than in 2016,” she stated.

But when asked about safe injections facilities, a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, rejected the concept outright, claiming that “our review of the science, as well as independent reviews by nongovernmental organizations, do not show convincing evidence that supervised injection facilities are in any way safe, reduce deaths, or reduce any type of infections. And we believe, since the evidence is not there, it is a distraction from evidence-based interventions that actually do reduce death, HIV, HCV, and other complications.”


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