In a year in which America’s drug epidemic has taken center stage, President Obama announced this week that new steps and funding that will broaden the scope of treatment for those who are struggling with prescription painkiller and heroin addiction.
In his speech to the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta on Tuesday, Obama announced several new initiatives that will address the ongoing drug epidemic head on. According to information provided in an article in today’s edition of The Fiscal Times, these new initiatives including doubling the number of patients that doctors are allowed to treat at any one time with the anti-opioid medication buprenorphine from 100 to 200. According to the White House, this proposal would increase access to medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people who struggle with opiate and opioid abuse.
Among President Obama’s other initiatives to fight the country’s drug epidemic include the creation of a mental health and substance abuse task force that will bring further awareness to problem. This task force will also ensure that every federal agency dealing with health insurance is providing parity to those in need of treatment for drug abuse and addiction issues.
Another proposed initiative would help finalize a rule that requires Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover mental health and substance abuse services at the same level of quality they cover medical and surgical services. Additionally, there would be a release of $11 million to 11 states to purchase and distribute the opiate reversal medication Naloxone, as well as training first responders, law enforcement and others on its proper and correct use.
These latest initiatives come on the heels of his budget request of $1.1 billion dollars to Congress to combat opioid addiction.
The widespread attention to the nation’s burgeoning drug abuse issues come on the heels of statistics that show that drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control show that 47,055 lethal drug overdoses occurred in the United States in 2014. Of those deaths, 18,893 overdose deaths were related to prescription pain relievers such as Oxycodone and Percocet while 10,574 overdose deaths where related to heroin.
Additionally, figures provided by the National Center for Health Statistics point out the connection between heroin use and the abuse of prescription painkiller medications. These figures show that four in five new heroin users started out misusing painkiller medications, and as a result the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013. During this same time period, the rate of heroin overdose showed an average increase of 6% per year from 2000 to 2010, followed by a larger average increase of 37% per year from 2010 to 2013.
In addition to the initiatives proposed by President Obama, there has been increasing bipartisan activity this year to create legislation and strategies to treat those addicted. Among this legislation has been the recent Senate passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act–also known as a CARA Bill.
Additionally, federal public health agencies have gradually provided more in grants and funding to the states to address the epidemic.