The administration called out several components of its opioid plan including greater access to telemedicine services to help people in rural areas receive treatment, expediting the hiring process of healthcare professionals working on opioids, and opening funding in programs for dislocated workers and HIV/AIDS patients to be used for their addictions. No additional funds were announced as part of this declaration. Some call this announcement a good start but others say that additional funding is needed to really make a difference.
Co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, Andrew Kolodny, called for greater funding for outpatient opioid addiction treatments. In an interview he said those kinds of services need to be more accessible than heroin or fentanyl.
Had it been declared a national emergency rather than a public health emergency, more funds would have been freed up for things like treatment and greater access to naloxone and prescription monitoring programs. A public health emergency expires after 90 days, though they may be renewed. Funds earmarked for addiction treatment programs will run out next year, and the administration plans to work with Congress to find money in the budget for such programs.
Another budgetary issue is the cost of naloxone, and some officials say that the public health declaration should allow the government to call for lower prices of this anti-overdose drug so that it can be more widely distributed.
The president discussed future initiatives such as suspending a rule that prevents Medicaid from funding rehab facilities, and ramping up efforts to block fentanyl from coming into the country.
The president also said that he planned to start a campaign encouraging people not to use opioids to begin with. The problem that many people have, particularly in the workers’ compensation community, is that they do need these drugs for a short amount of time after a serious injury yet their addictive nature makes it hard to stop.
From the New York Times