Pubdate: Wed, 03 Feb 2016
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2016 Austin American-Statesman
Note: Letters MUST be 150 words or less
Author: Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post


Proposal Targets Users of Heroin, Prescription Drugs.

White House officials announced Tuesday that they will seek nearly 
$1.2 billion in new federal funding over the next two years to 
address the growing problem of heroin and prescription opioid use, an 
epidemic that has become an increasingly important policy priority 
among the nation's politicians.

The centerpiece of the proposal is $1 billion in mandatory funding 
over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug 
abuse and heroin use, $920 million of which would go to the states. 
Another $500 million, some of which is a continuation of existing 
funds, would support work by the departments of Health and Human 
Services and Justice to expand not just treatment but access to the 
overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities.

Officials from both parties have intensified their focus on opioid 
use as it has taken an increasingly heavy toll on rural communities 
as well as urban ones. Last month, President Barack Obama appointed 
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to lead a new interagency effort 
focused on addressing the issue in rural America, while Senate 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid 
have agreed to take up legislation on the issue. The total number of 
U.S. deaths linked to opioids - a class of drugs that includes 
prescription pain medications as well as heroin - reached 28,648 in 
2014, exceeding the number of deaths from car crashes.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary 
Sylvia Matthews Burwell, a native of West Virginia, said that "no 
community has been immune" to the problem, though her home state has 
been hit particularly hard.

"Personally, I know the families who have suffered deeply from loss, 
and continue to struggle in their families," she said, adding that 
the money the administration is seeking "would mean a significant 
investment in this fight."

The funding includes $460 million over two years for what Burwell 
called "evidence-based intervention efforts," adding that while it 
would have to be spread out, "we want to try to move that money as 
quickly as possible" to the states.

While lawmakers appeared poised to approve new funding in the coming 
year to tackle the problem, it is unclear whether they will accept 
the administration's proposal or push for a different strategy.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, whose bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction 
and Recovery Act is set to be marked up Thursday in the Senate 
Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that "if the White House is 
serious about fighting the heroin epidemic, the president will signal 
his support" for the bill.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom