WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump’s $1.8 billion pledge to help states fight the opioid crisis earned cautious celebration Wednesday from groups on the epidemic’s front lines.
“It’s not enough, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Casey Dillon, program director for Advocates for Opioid Recovery, said in an interview.
The money pledged by the White House today will be split between two programs, with more than $932 million going to funding prevention and treatment services and another $900 million to help states set up programs to track overdose deaths.
Requirements are flexible for providers seeking prevention and treatment grants, but Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar noted that the addiction-treatment options they provide must include a combination of behavior therapy and medication.
Dillon hailed this distinction, calling medication-assisted treatment the “gold standard” in opioid-abuse treatment. She added that the administration will need to have strong oversight to make sure the money goes to the right places and should commit to sending more money to combat the problem in the future.
Azar said grants for the overdose-tracking program will be doled out over three years.
Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017 and reaffirmed this policy stance today.
“My administration is determined to use every resource at our disposal to smash the grip of addiction,” Trump said in remarks from the White House on Wednesday.
In 2017, the most recent official data available, more than 47,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids, accounting for more than two-thirds of all drug overdoses in the United States that year.
But the Trump administration has hailed small victories in fighting drug-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted a 5% drop in overdose deaths from all types of drugs between 2017 and 2018 based on preliminary data, the first such decline in decades. The agency is predicting another drop in overdose deaths of 3.4% from January to 2018 to January 2019, based on preliminary information.