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Bipartisan Budget Agreement Builds on President’s Call for New Funding for Opioid Epidemic

Agreement also revises longstanding ban on using Federal funds to support syringe service programs

As new data showed opioid-related overdose deaths reaching their highest levels to date, the President signed a bipartisan budget agreement with more than $400 million in funding specifically to address the opioid epidemic, an increase of more than $100 million over the previous year. This new funding builds on the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which had called for major investments to intensify efforts to reduce prescription opioid misuse, heroin use and related overdoses.

As requested in the President’s budget, the agreement funds an expansion of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program, bringing total CDC funding for this program to $70 million.  These funds would support grants to states to reduce overdoses from opioids and other drugs, through improvements to coordination of prescription drug monitoring programs and other state prevention strategies. 

The agreement also includes a $35 million increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders in high-risk communities, increase the use of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and improve prevention efforts.

The agreement provides $7 million in funding for the Department of Justice COPS programs Anti-Heroin Task Forces grants to help communities form innovative partnerships to address the opioid epidemic. The agreement includes $116 million for the Bureau of Prisons to help provide appropriate substance use disorder treatment for eligible inmates 

The budget agreement also allows high-risk communities to use Federal funds for services associated with syringe service programs, revising a longstanding ban. Research has shown syringe service programs can help reduce outbreaks of HIV and viral hepatitis by confronting the primary source of the outbreaks: injection drug use, often related to opioids. 

The agreement also increases funding for general drug prevention, anti-trafficking and treatment programs, which will help address opioid and other substance use disorders. For example, the budget increases by $38 million the SAMHSA Block Grants that provide funds and technical assistance to all 50 states to prevent and treat substance use disorders. 

These investments build on efforts that began in 2010, when the President released his first National Drug Control Strategy, which emphasized the need for action to address opioid use disorders and overdose, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive safe, effective treatment.  The next year, the White House released its national Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan to outline goals for addressing prescription drug abuse and overdose.  Since then, the Administration has supported and expanded community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, improve prescribing practices for pain medication, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery. 

In October of this year, the President announced a number of new steps that the Administration is taking to address this issue. He also highlighted a number of private sector commitments focused on reducing opioid misuse, including a commitment by more than 40 provider groups – representing doctors, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and educators -- that more than 540,000 health care providers will complete opioid prescriber training in the next two years. In addition, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and other companies will donate millions of dollars in media space for PSAs about the risks of prescription drug misuse produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

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