The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $1.8 billion in funding Wednesday to continue efforts to combat the opioid crisis by expanding treatment access and supporting data collection.
West Virginia will receive more than $35 million of the funding.
The first grant for $28,027,511 was awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of its State Opioid Response grants, according to press material.
The second grant for $7,357,388 was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of a three-year cooperative agreement known as the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A). The purpose of the program is to advance the understanding of the opioid epidemic and improve prevention and response efforts.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership and the hard work of so many Americans in local communities, we are beginning to win the battle against the opioid overdose crisis,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the release. “Our country is seeing the first drop in overdose deaths in more than two decades, more Americans are getting treatment for addiction, and lives are being saved."
The release said data suggests approximately 1.27 million Americans are now receiving medication-assisted treatment, out of approximately 2 million Americans with opioid use disorder. Since 2016, the number of patients receiving buprenorphine has increased 28 percent, and the number of naltrexone prescriptions per month has increased 55 percent.
From 2017 to 2018, provisional counts of drug overdose deaths dropped by 5 percent, the release said, and overdose deaths from opioids went down 2.8 percent from 2017 to 2018. The number of individuals reporting pain reliever misuse decreased from 2017 to 2018 by 11 percent, with fewer than 10 million Americans now reporting misuse.
While improvements have been made, Azar noted the nation is still "far from declaring victory."
“Federal funding like this plays an important role in contributing to the fight to end the drug epidemic that is devastating so many families and communities across West Virginia,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a release. “I helped change the state grant formula in the Labor-HHS government funding bill, and the benefits of that change are evident today with the distribution of this second round of resources.
"Making sure these funds are available is one of my top priorities as a member of the Appropriations Committee, but it’s even more important to me that these funds are going to states like ours with the greatest needs. That’s exactly what my changes to the state grant formula make possible. I am glad to see this critical funding come to our state and will continue to advocate for these much-needed resources.”
In a separate release, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., noted West Virginia has the highest overdoes rate per capita of any state in the nation.
"That’s why I fought to make sure that states like West Virginia, where mortality rates are through the roof, receive more funding," Manchin said. "This language more than tripled the amount of funding our state has received over the last two years. West Virginia is ground zero and we need all of the funding we can get to help those struggling with substance use disorder receive treatment and help heal from this crisis."
Congresswoman Carol Miller, R-W.Va., commended the Trump Administration for making the opioid crisis a top priority.
"West Virginia is ground zero for the opioid epidemic, and we have all been struck by its tragic effects," Miller said. "I am committed to keeping our community safe, and together we can work to address this crisis, increase access to treatment, and provide much-needed solutions to this problem.”