White House Challenges Congress To Fund CARA, Expands Naloxone Access

By John Lavitt 08/31/16

The White House announced new funding to expand naloxone access to first responders in the states hit hardest by overdose and opioid abuse.

White House Challenges Congress To Fund CARA, Expands Naloxone Access

In a press conference to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli dedicated $53 million more in funding initiatives to address the opioid epidemic.

At the same time, Burwell and Botticelli challenged Congress to take action and fund President Obama’s $1.1 billion action plan to fight this national crisis. Although both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, known as CARA, the bipartisan legislation still lacks funding. For such legislation to be anything more than pie-in-the-sky posturing, concrete funds are needed to turn the promised recovery programs into realities that can save lives. 

Being from West Virginia, one of the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, HHS Secretary Burwell spoke from personal experience of meeting with those who lost loved ones to overdoses. “We are guided by the best evidence we have about this epidemic," Burwell told reporters over the phone. "We need to continue to hone the most impactful strategies to address the crisis. Families are fighting the illness and the stigma of this disease. They are doing all they can, and we need to do the same as well.”

In the meantime, the HHS is utilizing its divisions such as SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to offer additional funding to a handful of addiction treatment programs.

The Medication-Assisted Treatment Prescription Drug Opioid Addiction Grants will provide up to $11 million to 11 states to expand access to MAT services. The Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Prescription Drugs Grants provide up to $9 million to 21 states and four tribes to strengthen drug misuse prevention efforts. The Enhanced State Surveillance of Opioid-Involved Morbidity and Mortality program is awarding $4.27 million in funds to 12 states to better track fatal and nonfatal opioid-involved overdoses.

Although directed at a minority of states in need of help, the funding targets those that have been proactive in addressing the problem at hand, while also trying to help states with the most severe opioid abuse and overdose problems. A major goal of the new initiatives is to provide access to and expand the use of naloxone by first responders. As an opioid antagonist that can reverse a narcotics overdose in emergency scenarios, naloxone has been instrumental in saving lives during the recent spurt of overdoses. Given the presence of fentanyl as well as powerful new synthetic opioids in street drugs, the overdose crisis has been surging to once unimaginable levels nationwide. 

As director of the ONDCP, Michael Botticelli made it clear that reviving people who are struggling with substance use disorder after an opioid overdose is not enough. If treatment is not offered and available for these people, they are bound to end up in the same dark place, he said.

“Simply reviving people isn’t enough to the stem the tide of this epidemic. We need to get the people that overdose access to the treatment that they need," said Botticelli. "We need to expand access to treatment in communities across the country ... We need to move our country from crisis to recovery.”

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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, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.