$94 Million To Fight Opioid Epidemic Given To U.S. Health Centers

By John Lavitt 03/16/16

The federal funding will go to inner cities and rural communities for prevention and medication-assisted treatments. 

 $94 Million To Fight Opioid Epidemic Given To U.S. Health Centers
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Continuing the federal government’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell announced $94 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The funds are directed at improving and expanding the delivery of substance abuse services in local health centers, focusing on the treatment of opioid use disorders, particularly in underserved populations in rural communities and impoverished urban centers lacking adequate services.

“Health centers treat some of the most at-risk patients in the country. These awards position health centers to be at the forefront of the fight against opioid abuse in underserved communities,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae in a Friday news release.

As one of the most critical public health problems in the country, the abuse of and addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers is a priority for the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014. Although these are the latest statistics available, the rates clearly have continued to increase over the past year.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” said Secretary Burwell in the HHS news release. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”

The HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will administer the funding. The HRSA awards to health centers will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions. It is estimated that the $94 million investment will lead to the hiring of approximately 800 additional providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients across the country.

Over 1,300 health centers operate approximately 9,000 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin. These health centers employ more than 170,000 staff that provide care for nearly 23 million patients.

The Fix recently interviewed Secretary Burwell about the Obama administration's efforts to deal with the growing challenge of the opioid epidemic.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.