White House sends money to states to fight opioids, urges Congress to provide more

September 1, 2016
In The News

WASHINGTON -- Ohio will get nearly $2 million in federal grants to fight heroin and prescription opioid abuse, the White House said, but much more money is needed -- and, the White House contended, the Republican-led Congress won't provide it.

GOP leaders counter they have already increased anti-drug spending dramatically.

The disagreement has set up an odd juxtaposition, with Republican lawmakers such as Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman -- from a state with staggering drug-death and overdose numbers -- agreeing with Democrats at times and talking about anti-drug strategies every week, while his party stresses financial concerns.

By early August, Cuyahoga County had reported over 280 deaths this year from heroin or fentanyl overdoses. Forty-seven were in July alone.

Emergency responders in Cincinnati recently reported 30 heroin overdoses in a single day.

Ohio will be awarded shares of grants from three federal programs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Strengthening prevention efforts: 21 states including Ohio will share up to $9 million to fight prescription drug misuse. Ohio's portion: $371,616, according to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Toledo. HHS said the program is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of sharing medications and work with pharmaceutical and medical communities on the risks of overprescribing. The program, funded through Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Prescription Drugs Grants  also seeks to raise community awareness.
  • Preventing drug overdoses: Ohio and 13 other states will share up to $11.5 million to support ongoing to address high overdose death rates and improve toxicology and drug screening. Ohio's portion comes to $1 million, Kaptur said. States can use the money for prescription drug monitoring programs, further prevention efforts and evaluation of strategies to improve safe prescribing practices.
  • Tracking overdoses: Ohio and 11 other states will share $4.27 million to better track fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses. Ohio's portion is $626,939, according to Kaptur. The information is intended to help local authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention better respond to overdoses.

The grants were awarded on the basis of need, of target populations and other factors. Altogether, HHS announced $53 million nationwide, but Ohio's share --$1,998,455 -- is just a fraction of that. Even HHS said the national grant totals are insufficient for the need, and congressional Democrats agreed.

"Any additional resources are a help," Kaptur said. "But this is an epidemic, and it's getting worse, based on what I have been told by medical professionals and law enforcement officials in northern Ohio.  Everyone acknowledges this isn't enough – everyone except the Republicans in Congress, that is."
President Barack Obama has asked Congress to approve $1.1 billion for the effort over two years, which would make Ohio eligible for up to $45 million. That is unlikely to happen this year, and a new president takes office in 2017.

Separately, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in July and Obama signed it, an agreement that authorized $181 million a year in new spending. But authorization is not the same as an actual appropriation from Congress (see the video above to understand), and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said this week that even the $181 million authorization, if provided, is not enough.


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