alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

From New Hampshire to Arizona, millions of American families are confronted by the impact of opioid addiction. It’s one of the few remaining bipartisan issues on which the U.S. Congress continues to agree. Its reach is pervasive, it’s an international and domestic issue, and it has led politicians to cross the aisle and work together. Finding initiatives and funding programs to enact real solutions has become a national priority, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is earmarking nearly $400 million to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.

According to HHS, “The investments will enable Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded community health centers, rural organizations, and academic institutions to establish and expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services.”

Initially introduced by President Trump in 2017, the funding is part of HHS’s Five-Point Opioid Strategy. The strategy has already seen an increase in patients receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction at HRSA-funded health centers by 142% from 2016–2018. The new funding will aid community health centers across the country, 96 of which are in rural areas and are part of the department’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program initiative.

“Health centers and behavioral health providers are on the front lines of the fight against the opioid crisis and substance abuse, especially in rural communities,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “With our evidence-based strategy, HHS is working to support local communities in fighting back against substance abuse, and our united efforts are yielding results. Together, we can end our country’s opioid crisis and lay a foundation for a healthier country where every American can access the mental healthcare they need.”

HHS reserved $70 million for its Opioid Workforce Expansion Programs, an initiative to support behavioral health training and education for community healthcare professionals, social workers, psychology interns, and postdoctoral residents. According to HHS, the investments will help healthcare professionals provide integrate behavior health and treatments to underserved communities.  

Several HHS agencies are working together to allocate funding to increase access to high-quality health services for abuse prevention and addiction treatment. More funding for behavioral medicine is a national priority to assist community health, rural health, and treatment centers to address the widespread opioid crisis. With continued emphasis on combatting addiction and abuse, patients with cancer must have protected access to the medications they need for symptom management and pain control. ONS is active in the conversation to balance that access while supporting treatments for addiction and substance abuse.