President Barack Obama proposes $1.1B in new funding to combat heroin, opioid epidemic
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he wants $1.1 billion in new funding to increase treatment access to opioid and heroin addicts nationwide.
The president's 2017 budget proposal will include $1 billion in mandatory funding over two years to increase addiction treatment for heroin and prescription opioids and to make the services more affordable.Obama said additional funding is needed as overdose deaths have overtaken vehicle accident deaths in the last couple of years, with 28,648 prescription pain medication- and heroin-related deaths in the United States in 2014.
While Florida isn't considered a state with a serious heroin-addiction rate, the Manatee and Sarasota county areas reported heroin overdose deaths doubled to more than 150 in 2015, compared with 63 in 2014 and just 19 in 2013.
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Officials say Manatee County's heroin epidemic began in spring 2014, when police began seeing greater use of fentanyl, an opioid pain reliever 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Research has found three of four new heroin users reported abusing prescription opioid pain relievers before turning to heroin.
Most of the proposed new money - $920 million - would fund cooperative agreements with states to provide more drug-based treatment for people addicted to painkilling opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet, hydrocodone and morphine.
The money would be allocated based on the severity of a state's problem and its strategy to address the issue.
Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Bradenton, Florida, said he supporta Obama's proposal.
"This is a problem destroying lives and families across America that needs to be addressed," Buchanan said in an email statement. "I strongly support efforts to fight the heroin and drug abuse epidemic in this country and look forward to reviewing the president's proposal."
Obama's proposal would also use $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand services at roughly 700 drug treatment facilities, including those in areas with a shortage of behavioral health providers.An estimated $30 million would be used to measure the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions and help identify improved treatment for patients with opioid-use disorders.
Another $90 million would go toward expanding 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 enforcement activities. The increase would bring the total amount of federal funding to those programs to $500 million.
A portion of this funding is directed specifically to rural areas where rates of overdose and opioid use are particularly high.
"This investment, combined with other efforts underway to reduce barriers to treatment for substance use disorders, will help ensure that every American who wants treatment can access it and get the help they need," the White House Press Office said in the release.
The money also would fund an HHS project that allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine, an opioid addiction treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
From 2010 to 2012, the death rate from heroin doubled across 28 states representing 56 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2014 government report.
The increase in heroin overdoses -- from 1 per 100,000 deaths to 2.1 per 100,000 deaths during that time -- was driven by increasing supplies of the drug and the widespread use of and addiction to prescription opioid pain relievers.
Obama's plan will be part of his 2017 budget proposal, scheduled to be released next Tuesday.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby.