According to the Centers for Disease Control, fatal drug overdoses hit an all-time high in 2014. Opioids, especially heroin and prescription pain pills, were involved in over half of all incidents.
Approximately 2 million Americans are dependent on prescription pain medication, and heroin use is up in almost all age groups in all income levels. More people are now dying from overdoses than car accidents. Recently, the federal government, law enforcement, communities groups, medical professionals and community groups addressed the problem at the annual National RX Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. Here are some of the multi-strategy efforts advanced by various federal agencies:
- Targeting High Risk States - The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will add Ohio and Michigan to the list of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) which already includes Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey and Washington/Baltimore. The ONDCP’s heroin initiative seeks to increase partnerships between law enforcement and public health agencies in these areas.
- Naloxone Distribution - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is making $11 million available for up to 11 states to purchase the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and train first responders, community leaders, and others on its usage.
- Expanding Access to Treatment - Health and Human Services released $94 million to 271 existing Community Health Centers to increase treatment services in underserved communities.
- Community Policing - The Department of Justice will include a $7 million COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force award to law enforcement agencies in select states to investigate heroin and prescription opioid trafficking.
- Rural Communities - The Department of Agriculture announced that substance use disorders should be part of the focus of the $1.4 million Rural Health and Safety Education Grant Program that addresses health and safety education projects in rural America.
Click here for a more information on what other action steps came out of the summit to fight the opiate abuse crisis.