Federal government funding to address the opioid crisis is a critical piece of a program to address this challenging issue. The federal government has announced a five point strategy to be implemented through the Department of Health and Human Services that focuses on:
- Access: Better Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services. HHS issued over $800 million in grants in 2017 to support treatment, prevention, and recovery, while making it easier for states to receive waivers to cover treatment through their Medicaid programs. (Issued 5 such SUD waivers since PHE declaration.)
- Data: Better Data on the Epidemic. HHS is improving our understanding of the crisis by supporting more-timely, specific public health data and reporting, including through accelerating CDC’s reporting of drug overdose data.
- Pain: Better Pain Management. HHS wants to ensure everything we do — payments, prescribing guidelines, and more — promotes healthy, evidence-based methods of pain management.
- Overdoses: Better Targeting of Overdose-Reversing Drugs. HHS works to better target the availability of lifesaving overdose-reversing drugs. The President’s 2019 Budget includes $74 million in new investments to support this goal.
- Research: Better Research on Pain and Addiction. HHS supports cutting edge research on pain and addiction, including through a new NIH public-private partnership.
Two current HHS funding opportunities exist for communities seeking to address the opioid challenge. Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy has released the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the new Rural Communities Opioid Response initiative for FY 2018. HRSA plans to award approximately 75 grants to rural communities as part of this funding opportunity. Rural communities must apply by July 30, 2018. All eligible high risk rural communities are encouraged to apply. Successful awardees will receive up to $200,000 for one year to develop plans to implement opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions designed to reduce opioid overdoses among rural populations.
Also, HHS announced the availability of $350 million in new funding to expand access to substance use disorder and mental health services at community health centers across the nation with applications due on July 16, 2018. These funds will support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies, including expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services, and are expected to be awarded in September of this year by HRSA. Primary care settings, like the community health centers supported by HRSA’s Health Center Program, have increasingly become a gateway to integrated care for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) and primary care needs. HRSA support enables community health centers to enhance access to primary care-based SUD services, including MAT services, as well as pain management and other prevention services. In 2017 alone, nearly 65,000 health center patients received MAT. Nearly 1,400 community health centers operate more than 11,000 sites, providing care to nearly 26 million people across the nation.
Federal funding is not the entire solution to the opioid crisis but it may provide a source of support that is part of the solution.