On April 19, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced grants totalling $485 million dollars distributed to all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and US territories, in order to fight the opioid crisis. The funding will occur in two rounds following provisions set forth in the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted by Congress in December 2016. The grants will be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in accordance with the needs of the individual states.
In his letter to state governors, Price cited the opioid crisis as a top priority, pointing to statistics indicating that opioids were responsible for an estimated 33,000 deaths in the year 2015. Price also indicated five key areas of strategy for fighting the opioid crisis. These include improving health surveillance, evolving pain management practices, increasing access to treatment and recovery services, making overdose-reversing drugs more available, and funding new research.
Opioid abuse refers both to the use of illicit opioids such as heroin, as well as the abuse of prescription opioids commonly employed as painkillers. Dependence on prescription opioids is a key issue that doctors must carefully consider when treating patients. Opioid abuse can be particularly harmful for pregnant women, potentially endangering the infant. The CDC reports that since 1999, opioid-related overdose deaths have quadrupled in number.