President Obama proposes $1.1B in new funding to combat prescription opioid abuse and national heroin epidemic

Mounting data illuminating the national opioid and heroin addiction epidemic has prompted President Barack Obama to add $1.1 billion in new funding in his fiscal year 2017 budget to help those struggling with addiction.

Each year, more Americans die from drug overdoses than they do in car crashes. Data from the CDC show that opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014. The agency also found a steep increase in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

President Obama has clearly stated the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic is a priority for his administration. Under the Affordable Care Act, substance abuse disorder services are considered essential health benefits that are required to be covered by health insurance plans sold on the exchanges. The law also requires that covered substance use disorder benefits are comparable to medical and surgical benefits in pricing and quality.

President Obama's fiscal year 2017 budget includes a two-pronged approach to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic. First, it includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. This funding includes:

  • $920 million to support cooperative agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States will receive funds based on the severity of the epidemic and on the strength of their strategy to respond to it.
  • $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. This funding will help support approximately 700 providers who provide substance use disorder treatment services — including medication-assisted treatment — in areas that have the greatest need for behavioral health providers
  • $30 million to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions and help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders.

The second part of the president's proposed budget includes roughly $50 million — an increase of more than $90 million — to continue to develop efforts across the Departments of Justice and HHS to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and support targeted enforcement activities.

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