Cross-posted from the HHS Blog
The opioid crisis is affecting communities across the country. Deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Prescription drugs, especially opioid analgesics — a class of prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and methadone used to treat both acute and chronic pain — have increasingly been implicated in drug overdose deaths over the last decade. From 1999 to 2013, the rate for drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled. Deaths related to heroin have also increased sharply since 2010, with a 39 percent increase between 2012 and 2013. Given these alarming trends, it is time for a smart and sustainable response to prevent opioid abuse and overdose and to treat people with opioid use disorder.
Combating opioid abuse, dependence, and overdose is a priority for Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and the Obama Administration at large. The Secretary’s evidence-based opioid initiative focuses on three targeted areas: informing opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone (a drug that reverses the deadly respiratory effects of opioid drug overdose), and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment to treat opioid use disorder.
On Saturday in addressing the National Governor’s Association, Secretary Burwell announced three bold steps to increase access to substance use disorder treatment services, including treatment for opioid prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
As leaders within the Department, we want to share more information about these new actions to combat opioid abuse.
First, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will make $100 million in new funding available to approximately 300 Community Health Centers to expand services for those with substance use disorders, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Lack of access to such treatment is a growing problem nationwide and this infusion of funds will offer many people in need access to quality services.
Second, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is awarding $11 million to 11 states to expand and enhance medication assisted treatment services. These funds will enable state treatment service systems to more effectively address the needs of people with opioid use disorders. The grants promote comprehensive, coordinated, and evidence-based medication-assisted treatment and recovery support services.
Third, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing guidance to help states implement comprehensive, evidence-based service delivery approaches to substance use disorder treatment. It is estimated that 12 percent of all Medicaid beneficiaries ages 18-64 and 15 percent of uninsured individuals who could be eligible for Medicaid coverage have substance use disorder. Medicaid pays one out of every five dollars for substance use disorder treatment. CMS is offering a new Medicaid demonstration initiative to states that offer a continuum of care for individuals with substance use disorders across settings, including inpatient care.
Untreated substance use disorders are associated with increased risks for a variety of costly health conditions. Medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based, comprehensive approach that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.
Read the Secretary’s Opioid Initiative for more information.