A few developments worth highlighting in our nation’s ongoing war against opioid use disorder. The U.S. Surgeon General has released a report, “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids.” Among other things, the report calls for a cultural shift in the way we talk about the public health crisis and recommends actions to prevent and treat opioid use disorder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths increased last year by 10 percent, claiming more than 70,000 American lives. Nearly 48,000 were opioid overdose deaths. Only about 1 in 4 people with opioid use disorder receive any type of treatment for a variety of reasons that include stigma, lack of access to services or being able to afford services. Also compounding the treatment gap is that the existing health care workforce is understaffed or lacks the necessary training to implement Medicaid Assisted Therapy (MAT).
The federal government has been working with key stakeholders, among them Community Health Centers. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) last month rolled out $352 million in grants to 1,232 health centers across the nation. The funding aims to support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies that best meet the substance use disorder and mental health needs of the populations they serve (see press release). The grants are part of a five-point strategy launched by the Department of Health and Human Services to fight opioid use disorder. Those five points are: better addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services; better data, better pain management, better targeting of overdose reversing drugs and research.