HHS funnels $340 million to battle opioid crisis, but no national emergency declaration
This week HHS has provided a total of more than $340 million for programs aimed at providing greater access to addiction treatment. And while that's generous, many are wondering when the Trump administration plans to call the epidemic a national emergency.
On Friday, HHS announced more than $144 million in grants through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will fund six initiatives that provide training and medication to first responders for emergency treatment of opioid overdose, support family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a substance use disorder, and expand residential substance abuse treatment for single mothers.
The move follows an announcement made on Thursday to provide more than 1,100 community health centers across the country with more than $200 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration.
"Those supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in our local communities are heroes in our nation's battle against the opioid crisis," HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price said in a statement. "Together, we can heal communities and save lives."
Over the last five months, a total of more than $1 billion in HHS funding has been allocated toward the fight against opioid abuse. But the vast majority of those funds come from last year's legislative actions. Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in July authorized $181 million a year in new funding, while the 21st Century Cures Act passed in December 2016 included $1 billion to spend over the next two years on opioid prevention and treatment programs.
The Trump administration has not yet taken steps to request additional funding from Congress or present strategies beyond the president's creation of an opioid commission back in March.
That panel submitted an initial report in July that called for the president to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency in light of more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 alone.
On Aug. 10, Trump said he would declare a national emergency, but has not yet drawn up a formal order.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the commission, was reported on Thursday as indicating a timetable for the declaration has not yet been set.
That delay spurred a group of 10 Democratic senators to send a letter to Trump this week that questioned his "intentions regarding the crisis".
"Regardless of whether you choose to declare and emergency, continued inaction on this issue is deeply concerning," the letter stated. "In order to effectively treat this crisis with the urgency it demands, we believe you must take action immediately to expand treatment capacity, increase prevention efforts, improve data sharing, and support detection and interdiction efforts to address the supply side of this epidemic—all recommendations for action proposed by the Commission you created."
The declaration would release millions in emergency funding and resources that could quickly be distributed to states that have been hardest hit by the epidemic.
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