The federal government on Wednesday released another $1.8 billion to fuel state efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.
The sum includes $932 million in state opioid response grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, guaranteed by last year's congressional opioid legislation. The only strings attached to this funding is that any grant recipient provide patients with access to medication-assisted treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will spend $900 million over the next three years for 47 states, the District of Columbia and two territories to build out drug-use surveillance programs. The goal is to shrink the lag time between the calculation of overprescribing, addiction and overdose rates and finding an appropriate response.
Of this money, CDC is releasing $301 million this year. The grants were calculated based on the size of the state or territory populations and the scope of their burden, according to officials.
The latest round of funding adds to the government's growing investment in efforts to reverse opioid use and overdose rates.
All told, HHS will have spent $9 billion in local and state grants by year-end. Regulations and new programs established by Congress in the 2018 opioids legislation are still being rolled out, but the state grants can sustain efforts already launched by states. Lawmakers began authorizing money in 2016 through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and have continued to boost the funding.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar and senior adviser to the president Kellyanne Conway used the funding announcement to showcase recent declines in opioid-related deaths and opioid prescriptions.
They acknowledged the growing abuse of illegal drugs like methemphetamine and cocaine. Azar told reporters that the CDC surveillance program can help track use of all dangerous substances. He also noted that local health departments have helped accelerate the release of national overdose data. Now the government releases those numbers every six months instead of annually.
Although state response grants by law have to focus on opioids, Azar added, they're meant to help states with the infrastructure they can use to manage treatment of other addictions.
Azar estimated that opioid prescriptions have declined by 31% under the Trump administration. Medication-assisted treatment for Americans addicted to opioids is up by 38% and naloxone prescriptions are up 378% in the same time frame.