States: Getting federal money for opioid crisis is a small step forward


Associated Press

CHERRY HILL, N.J.

The federal government will spend a record $4.6 billion this year to fight the nation’s deepening opioid crisis, which killed 42,000 Americans in 2016.

But some advocates say the funding included in the spending plan the president signed Friday is not nearly enough to establish the kind of treatment system needed to reverse the crisis. A White House report last fall put the cost to the country of the overdose epidemic at more than $500 billion a year.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat who served on President Donald Trump’s opioid commission last year, said there are clear solutions but that Congress needs to devote more money to them.

“We still have lacked the insight that this is a crisis, a cataclysmic crisis,” he said.

By comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the U.S. is spending more than $7 billion annually on discretionary domestic funding on AIDS, an epidemic with a death toll that peaked in 1995 at 43,000.

States also have begun putting money toward the opioid epidemic. The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich estimates the state is spending $1 billion a year to address the crisis. Last year, New Jersey allocated $200 million to opioid programs, and the budget proposal in Minnesota calls for spending $12 million in the coming fiscal year.

A spokesman for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who also served on the Trump commission, said the federal government still needs to do more.

The commission’s chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, declined through a spokesman to comment.

The opioid allocation is part of the $1.3 trillion budget appropriation Trump signed Friday. In a budget deal full of compromises, this was one element both parties heralded.

Addiction to opioid painkillers, including prescription drugs such a Vicodin and OxyContin and illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, is causing deep problems across the country. It’s being blamed for shortened life expectancies, growing burdens on foster care systems, and strains on police and fire departments.

The budgeted response amounts to about three times as much as the federal government is spending currently to address the epidemic, not counting treatment money that flows through Medicaid and Medicare. A spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency does not track how much money it spends on drug treatment.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.