President Obama Seeks Over $1 Billion to Combat Drug Epidemic

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President Obama Seeks Over $1 Billion to Combat Drug Epidemic

Author: Shernide Delva

President Barack Obama will make a budget request to Congress for $1 billion dollars to fight drug abuse and overdoses. The amount of overdoses in the United States is currently at an all-time high.  More than 47,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, according to the CDC. That exceeds the amount of deaths in traffic accidents.  Obama’s budget request aims to expand treatment specifically to those suffering from abusing prescription opioid painkillers as well those using cheaper drugs like heroin.

The majority of the $1 billion dollars would go to states under joint state-federal agreements increase the amount of people who have access to treatment. A smaller portion of $50 million would pay for a corps of 700 providers who know how to use drugs and therapy to treat drug addiction.

“Second, the President’s budget includes approximately $500 million — an increase of more than $90 million — to continue and build on current efforts across the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services 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,” the White House said in a statement.

The drug naloxone, more commonly known by its trade name Narcan, can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose. Many states and cities are ensuring that first responders have naloxone on hand to save the lives of those who have overdosed. Recently, a variety of efforts has been made to make Narcan more readily available. Everything from having school nurses has access to the drug to making the drug available over the counter at pharmacies.  With Narcan, the quicker a patient receives the drug, the better chance they have of surviving.

In the past, Obama has made it clear in the past that the opioid overdose epidemic is a priority for his Administration. Not long ago, the president issued a memorandum that served to combat the opioid epidemic through improving education and training as well as increase access to treatment.  In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications– enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

Obama went to West Virginia in October to hear personal accounts from individuals and families affected by the epidemic. West Virginia has the highest rate of overdoses in the country.  He spoke to health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and community leaders working to prevent addiction and respond to its aftermath.

The President’s FY 2017 budget takes a two-pronged approach:

First, it includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use.  The funds are allotted in the following ways:

  • $920 million to support and expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States can use these funds to expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable.
  • $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. This funding will make it possible for close to 700 providers to provide substance use disorder treatment services in areas across the country most in need of behavioral health providers.
  • $30 million to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of various treatment programs. This money would be used to understand the real-world conditions of drug abuse and understand the unique needs of patients with opioid use disorders.

Second, the president will increase the budget by close to 90 million for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The increase in funds will be used to continue to implement prevention strategies as well as increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs. The budget includes an HHS pilot program for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, where allowed by state law.  Another objective is to increase access to Naloxone (Narcan) with these funds.  The budget includes an HHS pilot program for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, where allowed by state law.

Along with President Obama’s announcement come several proposals from presidential candidates for the upcoming election. It is clear that the drug epidemic is going to be a critical topic to tackle in the next coming years.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135