WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, hosted a press call with Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and other Biden-Harris Administration officials to discuss new and ongoing actions to address the overdose epidemic as well as the urgent need for Congress to fund President Biden’s FY 2022 budget to build on those actions. The call followed the release of CDC’s provisional drug overdose death data, which show a record number of 100,306 predicted overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in April 2021.
Today, Dr. Gupta also announced the release of a model law for states to help expand access to naloxone, which saves lives by reversing opioid overdoses.
“As a buprenorphine-waivered physician who treats patients with substance use disorder, I’ve seen firsthand the heartbreak of the overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Gupta. “The Biden-Harris Administration is using every tool at our disposal to reduce these overdose deaths and to ensure that people with substance use disorder can get the support they need. This includes evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services, as well as supply reduction. But we cannot accomplish this without the support of Congress in fully funding President Biden’s budget request. It’s also critically important that Congress pass President Biden’s Build Back Better framework, which will create a fairer economy for communities and help address factors like homelessness and poverty that can lead to substance use and overdose.”
“Our new HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy breaks new ground to address the full range of drug use and addiction that can result in overdose and death,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We’re changing the way we address overdoses. Our new strategy focuses on people — putting the very individuals who have struggled with addiction in positions of power. And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can address what so many people have seen in recent years: a rise in overdoses that can risk a person’s life – and affect their entire family.”
“This is a tragic, all hands on deck moment. Harm reduction policies that make life-saving tools, like naloxone and fentanyl test strips, readily available are just the beginning. We must continue working on bold, new solutions aimed at keeping Americans alive,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.
“It’s clear that our work has never been more urgent,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “DEA’s top priority is to protect our communities from the criminal drug networks that threaten our safety and health – the same criminal drug networks that are driving today’s devastating overdose rates. Fentanyl and methamphetamine are flooding the United States at record rates. DEA’s resolve to combat the drug supply and reverse the overdose crisis plaguing this country is unwavering. We look forward to our continued collaboration with all of our partners on this critical issue.”
“To change this unprecedented level of drug overdose death, we must continue to pursue the innovative science that addresses the rapidly changing drug supply, addiction crisis, and related harms,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. “Scientific innovation to develop new tools is ongoing, including developing additional choices to treat opioid use disorder and new tools to address addiction to drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine. Yet it remains a tragedy that the safe and effective tools that we already have too often remain unused on the shelf, even as the overdose death rate continues to rise.”
“As overdose deaths continue to rise, we must increase our efforts to help and support communities and partners responding to this evolving crisis,” said Debra Houry, MD, MPH, Acting Principal Deputy Director of CDC. “Not all overdoses have to end in deaths, and CDC’s priority is to do everything we can to equip people on the ground to save lives.”
BACKGROUND ON THE BIDEN-HARRIS ADMINISTRATION’S ACTIONS ON ADDICTION AND THE OVERDOSE EPIDEMIC
In its first-year drug policy priorities, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined a strategy that includes expanding access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, as well reducing the supply of illicit drugs. Since January, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has worked with other agencies across the government to advance President Biden’s drug policy priorities. Among the actions taken in the first ten months of the Biden-Harris Administration are:
- The American Rescue Plan invested nearly $4 billion to allow the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital mental health and substance use disorder services. The funding also included $30 million in supports for harm reduction services—a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs.
- HHS announcement of the new HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy, which focuses on expanding primary prevention, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment, and recovery support services for all Americans. The HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s year one drug policy priorities and actions taken by the Administration to address addiction and the overdose epidemic since January.
- HHS released the Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder, which exempt eligible health care providers from federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services that are part of the process for obtaining a waiver to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine. This action expands access to evidence-based treatment by removing a critical barrier to buprenorphine prescribing.
- DEA lifted a decade-long moratorium on opioid treatment programs that want to include a mobile component. This rule change will help provide treatment to rural and other underserved communities, including incarcerated individuals.
- CDC and SAMHSA announced that federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.
- CDC launched four complementary education campaigns that provide information about the prevalence and dangers of fentanyl, the risks and consequences of mixing drugs, the life-saving power of naloxone, and the importance of reducing stigma around drug use to support treatment and recovery.
- National Institutes of Health is supporting research to accelerate scientific solutions to the overdose crisis, including research on prevention of substance use and use disorders; novel treatment strategies for addiction and overdose reversal; interventions to reduce drug harms and infection transmission; models of recovery support; and implementation of evidence-based practices in healthcare, community and justice settings.
- ONDCP designated six new counties as part of its High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. These counties, located in states like California, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, will receive support for regional law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.
- ONDCP provided funding for the nationwide expansion of the HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The Strategy brings together drug intelligence officers and public health analysts at the local and regional level to share information and develop evidence-based intervention and support services that reduce overdoses.
- ONDCP provided funding to support the establishment of state-level model legislation that advances efforts to expand access to harm reduction services, as well as promote equity in access to treatment and drug enforcement efforts for underserved communities.
- ONDCP hosted more than 300 State, local, and Tribal leaders from all 50 States, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands for a virtual convening entitled “Opioid Litigation Settlement: Using Evidence to Lead Action.” At the convening, government officials, researchers, and experts discussed how State, local, and Tribal governments can use evidence and data to guide decisions about how funds from opioid litigation can be spent to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, while advancing equity.
- ONDCP, HHS, and DOJ presented to Congress the Biden-Harris Administration’s recommendations for a long-term, consensus approach to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl-related substances (FRS), while safeguarding against racial disparities in prosecution and sentencing and reducing barriers to scientific research for all Schedule I substances.
- ONDCP announced $13.2 million in grants for 106 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Programs (managed by CDC) across the country working to prevent youth substance use, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. In June, ONDCP announced $3.2 million for 65 communities nationwide for its Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crisis Program to reduce youth substance use.
- ONDCP announced the release of a model law for state legislatures that would help ensure opioid litigation settlement funds are directed to addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic in impacted communities and with public accountability.
- DEA issued a national public safety alert, launched a “One Pill Can Kill” public awareness campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, and coordinated a major enforcement operation to rid American communities of significant quantities of counterfeit pills laced with deadly fentanyl.
- ONDCP released a new, holistic U.S.-Colombia counternarcotics strategy developed by the Counternarcotics Working Group between the United States and Colombian governments that broadens focus to include specific actions on rural security and development, environmental protection, and supply reduction.
In addition to these actions, the President’s FY22 budget request calls for a $41.0 billion investment for national drug program agencies, a $669.9 million increase over the FY 2021 enacted level. The largest increases in funding are for critical public health interventions to expand research, prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, with targeted investments to meet the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder. The FY22 budget request also includes significant investments in reducing the supply of illicit substances.