On the eve of International Overdose Awareness Day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced an additional $31 million in funding for 34 states to help address the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.
During the media call Tuesday afternoon, it was not made known which states would be included in the funding. To date, 44 states have been funded for programs, according to the call.
“We are continuing to advocate for the treatment that people need in communities across this country,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell. “They are fighting an illness as well as a stigma. They are doing all they can, and we should do no less.”
The funding will be in a three-part strategy intended to reduce overdoses, increase access to treatment and make sure naloxone is widely available, according to Burwell.
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“There is more that we must do,” Burwell said, calling on Congress to approve President Barack Obama’s requested $1.1 billion in funding.
The work isn’t done when overdose victims are revived, said Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy.
“This funding is certainly critical as well as our continued effort to prevent overdoses,” he said. “We need Congress to more fully address our response to this crisis. ... Simply reviving people isn’t enough in turning the tide on this epidemic.”
In the U.S., there are a lack of substance abuse treatment facilities, Botticelli said.
“We have an enormous treatment gap in this country,” he said. “This is exactly why we need Congress to step up and provide this funding. ... Every day that passes is a missed opportunity to save lives.”
For example, there are 28 detox beds in the entire state of West Virginia, according to Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington, W.V.
“The gap that we have is the lack of treatment facilities,” he said. “This is an issue of saving lives. We are ready to lose an entire generation. We absolutely have no time to waste. This appropriations needs to be acted on by the Congress immediately.”