Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has announced $94 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.
“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” said Secretary Burwell. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”
The abuse of and addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription pain medication, is a serious and increasing public health problem. According to HHS, approximately 4.5 million people in the United States were non-medical prescription pain reliever users in 2013, and an estimated 289,000 were current heroin users. HHS also estimates the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain medications has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, and deaths related to heroin increased 39 percent between 2012 and 2013.
Administered by the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards to health centers across the country will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to MAT for opioid use and other substance use disorder treatment, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions, according to HHS. The $94 million investment is expected to help awardees hire approximately 800 providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients.
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