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The White House
For Immediate Release


In the days immediately following the State of the Union, Cabinet officials and senior White House staff are embarking on the “State of the Union: Cabinet In Your Community” road tour to engage Americans in small towns, big cities and Indian country about the advancements the Administration has made on the most important issues facing the American people, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The President made clear in his State of the Union address that the true test is not the challenges we face, but how we approach those challenges. That’s why he and his Cabinet will keep their feet on the gas in this final stretch to continue driving toward solutions that will move this country forward for generations to come, while highlighting the progress that has been made over the past seven years. 


Prescription drug abuse and heroin use have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many Americans and their families, while straining resources of law enforcement and treatment programs. More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes.  New 2014 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show continued sharp increases in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. 

The President has made clear that the opioid epidemic is a priority for this Administration and has highlighted tools that are effective in reducing drug use and overdose, like evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, prescription drug take-back events, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone. 

On January 14, National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, to host a community forum on best practices and evidence-based initiatives to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse and heroin use. This is one of a series of forums across the country to continue the conversation that President Obama began in West Virginia in October, when he announced new public and private sector efforts to address the opioid overdose epidemic. 

  • In 2010, the President released his first National Drug Control Strategy, which emphasized the need to address opioid use disorders and overdose through a balanced public health and public safety approach, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive safe, effective treatment.  
  • In 2011, the White House released its national Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which outlined Administration efforts in four major areas: prescriber education, prescription drug monitoring, proper medication disposal, and enforcement.
  • In October 2015, the President announced new steps that the Administration is taking to address this issue, including a Presidential Memorandum on prescriber training and opioid use disorder treatment, as well as private sector commitments, 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 are donating millions of dollars in media space for PSAs about the risks of prescription drug misuse produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
  • In December 2015, 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 called for major investments to intensify efforts to reduce prescription opioid misuse, heroin use and related overdoses. The agreement also revised a longstanding ban on using Federal funds to support syringe service programs, which can help reduce outbreaks of HIV and viral hepatitis by confronting one major source of the outbreaks: injection drug use, including opioids.

The Obama Administration continues to work to expand 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, reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery. 

  • Through the Affordable Care Act, substance use disorder services are essential health benefits that are now required to be covered by health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace and covered substance use disorder benefits must be comparable to medical and surgical benefits.
  • The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports local Drug-Free Communities coalitions to reduce youth substance use through evidence-based prevention.  In recent years, hundreds of these coalitions have specifically focused on prescription drug misuse issues in their areas.
  • In July 2015, HHS announced it was making $100 million in funding available to Health Centers across the country to improve and expand the delivery of substance use disorder services, with a focus on medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. In September 2015, CDC launched a $20 million Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States initiative in 16 states to expand their capacity to put prevention into action in communities nationwide and encourage education of providers and patients about the risk of prescription drug overdose.
  • ONDCP has worked with federal, state, and local government agencies and other stakeholders to expand access to the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, including equipping first responders. Today, hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country carry and are trained to administer naloxone. Additionally, prior to 2012, just six states had any laws that expanded access to naloxone or limited criminal liability for persons that took steps to assist an overdose victim. Today, 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes that expand access to naloxone or provide “Good Samaritan” protections for possession of a controlled substance if emergency assistance is sought for a victim of an opioid overdose.
  • In November 2015, the President signed bipartisan legislation, the Protecting Our Infants Act, to help identify evidence-based approaches to care for mothers and their newborns affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Prescriber education programs have been developed to teach medical professionals skills such as how to start a conversation with patients about their substance use; managing pain appropriately; and treating patients using opioids more safely.  In response to a Presidential Memorandum, Federal agencies are leading the way by making certain that their workforce is properly trained. In addition, ten states have passed legislation mandating training for prescribers.
  • With support from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other funders, 49 states have established Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) to help prescribers identify potential opioid misuse issues, up from 30 at the start of the Administration. 
  • The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has held ten National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days since September 2010; cumulatively, these events have collected 5,525,021 pounds of drugs. The DEA also issued a new rule that allows for more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal of prescription drugs in communities.
  • DEA has deployed a 360 Strategy targeting the opioid epidemic through coordinated law enforcement operations, diversion control and partnerships with community organizations following enforcement operations.
  • DOJ’s enforcement efforts include targeting the illegal opioid supply chain, thwarting doctor-shopping attempts, and disrupting so-called “pill mills.”
  • DOJ has cracked down on those who use the Internet to buy and sell controlled substances.  
  • DEA agents and investigators are integrating with other federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in 66 Tactical Diversion Squads stationed across 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.  Outcomes of this effort include the largest pharmaceutical-related takedown in the DEA’s history in an operation that resulted in 280 arrests.
  • Since 2007, through the Merida Initiative, the Department of State has been working with the Government of Mexico to help build the capacity of Mexico’s law enforcement and justice sector institutions to disrupt drug trafficking organizations and to stop the flow of illicit drugs including heroin from Mexico to the United States. 

Watch Director Botticelli's community forum on opioids in Knoxville here.
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