Federal to focus opioid-fighting efforts on 4 states

Federal health officials announced that communities in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and New York, have been selected to put in efforts in order to reduce the number of overdoses related to opioid misuse and increase access to treatment.

As part of the HEALing Communities Study, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that, “more than $350 million will go towards implementing evidence-based prevention and treatment services”. This will work across many sectors, including traditional health care, behavioral health and the criminal justice system.

Azar mentioned that better prevention, treatment and recovery services will require connecting people at the ground level. Better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs implies understanding who in communities needs that tool on hand.

Improved data on the crisis begins at the community level in public health departments and local government. Better pain management begins in doctors’ offices and pharmacies. This initiative will support the substantive goals as well as the fiscal: better research in the communities that are hit the most by this crisis.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said that the study - from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will focus on two main goals:

  • Improving prevention and treatment strategies for opioid addiction

  • Developing safe and non-addictive opioid alternatives for pain medicine (and) management.

Collins said that their aim is to cut overdose deaths in these communities by 40% within first three years. They plan to create a blueprint about how communities across the nation can follow.

Each team will work with at least 15 of the hardest-hit communities in their state, both urban and rural. They will also decide on which combination of interventions can work out the best at the local level.