U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), recently announced the Fiscal Year 2018 government funding bill includes an additional $2.55 billion in Labor/HHS funding for programs targeting the opioid epidemic.
As chairman, Blunt has led efforts to increase opioid-related funding and repeatedly called for increased resources to combat the epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic is a devastating public health crisis that touches people of every age, from every background, in communities in Missouri and across the nation,” said Blunt. He added the epidemic claims 115 lives daily, forces children into foster care, strains law enforcement resources and costs the national economy more than $78 billion per year.
“That’s why we’ve made opioid treatment, prevention and research a priority in the past two government
Last month, Blunt announced that the Bipartisan Budget Act included $6 billion over two years in governmentwide funding for opioid-related programs. The $2.55 billion announced last week reflects the increase included in the Bipartisan Budget Act, along with Blunt’s efforts to prioritize funding through the Labor/HHS appropriations bill.
“This bill provides the funding necessary to tackle this crisis from every angle,” Blunt said. “The measure includes resources to expand access to behavioral health care and addiction prevention programs, and develop alternative treatments for pain management. It directs resources to states that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.”
New with the increased funding is an effort to ensure the health and safety of youth whose lives have been touched by the crisis. Blunt called the move “another major step” toward getting the epidemic under control and saving lives.
“More people died of overdoses in Missouri than in car accidents,” Blunt said during a visit Tuesday morning to Missouri Ozarks Community Health in Gainesville. “Opioid abuse are ending and destroying lives in ways we are just beginning to figure out.”
With this year’s funding bill taken into account, under Blunt’s chairmanship, funding for opioid-related Labor/HHS programs has increased by nearly $3.3 billion – a 1,228 percent increase – over three years.
BLUNT’S PLAN OF ACTION
At a Republican leadership press conference earlier this year, Sen. Blunt called for increased resources to address the opioid epidemic. In remarks on the Senate floor and in a USA Today op-ed with U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Blunt outlined the steps necessary to combat the opioid epidemic. In December 2017, Blunt held a hearing to examine prevention, treatment and recovery activities related to The $3.6 billion budget for opioid-related Labor/HHS programs includes $1 billion earmarked for a new State Opioid Response Grant, bolstering the $500 million in flexible grant funding available to states from 21st Century CURES. In 2017, Missouri was awarded a $10 million grant to combat the opioid crises.
$415 million is reserved for the expansion of behavioral health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment services, along with facilitating development of an appropriately-trained workforce, especially in rural communities.
Surveillance activities in all 50 states will be boosted with $350 million allocated toward that end. Those funds will also go toward the implementation of activities described in the National All Schedules Prescriptions Electronic Reporting Act and increase public awareness through nationwide campaigns.
As discussed at length during Blunt’s 2017 hearing, new research pertaining toward opioid addiction and the development of pain management alternatives to opioids is highly sought after. The Labor/HHS budget includes $500 million for such research and the development of opioid alternatives and studies on addiction treatment.
$185 million has been earmarked for opioid-related programs nationally and regionally carried out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Programs.
The budget increase enables the subcommittee to target the damage done to children by the epidemic with a $60 million increase for child abuse prevention and treatment programs to support the development and implementation of plans of safe care for infants affected by substance abuse. In addition, an increase of $40 million is allocated for mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for children and youth in the foster care system or at risk of entering it.