Trump Administration Looks to Congress for Opioid Crisis Funding

Alicia Ault

December 04, 2017

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is moving ahead to address the opioid crisis via the power given by the public health emergency declaration issued by President Donald J. Trump in October, but it is looking to Congress to provide the funding, HHS officials said at a press briefing.

"We're looking forward to hearing from Congress as to how they intend to address this," said Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan at the briefing. He noted that the House has proposed $15 billion in funding and that the Senate has proposed $45 billion.

The Trump administration intends "to work closely with Congress to help develop those numbers further," said Hargan, adding, "I think the fact that they put those kind of numbers in shows that the congressional leadership is taking this seriously, as is President Trump and his whole administration."

Hargan also noted that President Trump's donation of his third quarter salary ― $100,000 ― would go directly to the opioid effort at HHS. The money will be used "to fund the planning and design of a large-scale media campaign, which is going to highlight the dangers of opioid addiction," said Hargan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be developing the campaign, said Hargan. "This effort to build awareness and to keep people from falling into addiction is a key part of the overall opioid strategy," he said.

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, said at the briefing that the agency would address the epidemic in other ways as well, noting that it has a ripple effect on babies born addicted to opioids and that it increases the risk for hepatitis C and HIV infections. For every overdose in 2015, there were 18 people who had a substance use disorder (SUD) involving heroin and 62 who had an SUD involving prescription drugs, said Dr Fitzgerald, citing CDC data.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said that her agency had been working to quickly grant states waivers from previous Medicaid rules that limited the number of beds at a treatment facility. Now, instead of first having to come up with a comprehensive strategy for caring for individuals on Medicaid who have opioid addiction, states can first increase the number of treatment beds and then work with HHS on creating an overall plan, said Verma.

Since late October, when the public health emergency was issued, the CMS has approved requests in two states, "and we've got many more that are on their way," she said.

For more Medscape Psychiatry news, join us on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.