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

Throughout the country, Americans have seen the effects of opioid abuse. Rising numbers of overdoses have sent shockwaves through communities from Miami to Seattle and everywhere in between. As such, addressing the national opioid epidemic is still a major priority for the Trump administration.

To curtail the public health impact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has added two states to a growing list of 22 others that have opioid and substance use disorder demonstration projects. Through newly released CMS funding, these projects qualify states to receive additional dollars for substance abuse and addiction treatment facilities.

“The Trump administration is committed to offering a more flexible, streamlined approach to accelerate states’ ability to expand addiction treatment services during this national crisis,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “Whereas only a handful of states were approved for these demonstrations before 2017, our approach has allowed us to approve nearly 20 more demonstrations in just 18 months.” 

The bipartisan effort pulls from support written into the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed in 2016 and was an ONS policy priority at the time. Representatives from both sides of the aisle are looking for ways to curb the opioid epidemic, and it’s one of the true bipartisan issues left on Capitol Hill. By reclassifying addiction from a criminal offence to a mental health issue, federal funding is able to go straight to state health agencies to combat addiction and abuse in innovative ways for better public health.

Minnesota and Nebraska now join Illinois, New Jersey, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Washington, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Alaska, New Mexico, Kansas, Rhode Island, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, California, and West Virginia in receiving demonstration project funding approvals.

States enrolled in the project must track opioid and substance use disorders to measure the impact of their efforts. States that have already implemented substance abuse projects are already reporting positive results. According to CMS, Virginia saw a 4% decrease in acute inpatient substance use disorder admissions and a 6% decrease in opioid use disorder admissions within the first 10 months of implementation.

As CMS and other federal agencies fight the opioid addiction epidemic, nurses must also share the experiences of their patients with cancer. ONS advocates help educate lawmakers about the importance of proper chronic pain control, symptom management, and quality of life in cancer care.