As part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda priority to beat the overdose epidemic, federal agencies are working with housing and support services providers to improve access to life-saving measures like naloxone, destigmatize substance use disorder, and promote recovery
Washington, D.C. – Today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a joint letter to public health departments and health care systems to partner with housing providers, community development organizations, and other housing agencies to help expand access to naloxone and other life-saving overdose reversal medications in the communities they serve. Housing providers play an important role in the whole-of-society effort to save lives by ensuring that all public spaces have lifesaving overdose reversal medications on hand and people are prepared to use it. Overdose reversal medications that can reverse an opioid-related overdose, including fentanyl-related overdose; can be found in many schools, libraries, and other community institutions; and should be readily available in and around public housing settings, multifamily housing programs, housing counseling offices, and programs for people experiencing homelessness.
“With his Unity Agenda, President Biden set a clear directive: we must all come together to address the nation’s overdose epidemic,” said ONDCP Deputy Director Adam Cohen. “Not only are we working closely across federal agencies, but with partners at the state, local, and community levels to save lives and ensure everyone has the resources they need to stay healthy and thrive. Expanding access to overdose reversal medication is a key priority of this Administration, and we will continue doing all we can to get this lifesaving tool in communities throughout the country.”
“The epidemic’s ability to change over time demands a flexible and collective response as a federal family,” said Assistant Secretary for Health, ADM Rachel L. Levine. “By working together at the federal, state, and local levels, we can extend access to Naloxone and other opioid reversal agents to create healthy communities and build a healthy nation for all.”
“We all have a role to play in ending the overdose epidemic,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “Naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications save lives. Ensuring these medications are broadly distributed in these housing-related settings is an important step to help communities prevent fatal overdoses. These medications should be as readily available as other health-and-safety equipment like carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and defibrillators.”
“Many overdoses happen in the home, and providing access to an effective and easy-to-use medication that can reverse an overdose is just common sense,” said Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner Julia Gordon. “We urge our assisted housing property owners and managers to make this life-saving medication readily available to their residents and guests.”
“With recent advancements in lifesaving medications, I encourage our local partners offering housing and services to people at risk of drug overdose to use every resource available to prevent death and complications,” said Marion McFadden, HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development. “Through a coordinated response from local communities, recipients of federal funding, and healthcare partners, we can beat the overdose epidemic.”
“Our fact sheet made clear that no person who lives in public housing or housing units assisted by housing vouchers should risk losing their lives or the lives of their loved ones to overdoses out of fear of losing their housing,” said Richard Monocchio, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing. “Naloxone and other overdose reversal medications save lives and should be as available in public housing as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.”
Addressing the overdose epidemic is a key priority of President Biden’s Unity Agenda, which focuses on issues where all Americans can come together and make progress for the nation. In support of this Unity Agenda priority, HHS, HUD and ONDCP are committed to working together and with communities to improve access to life-saving measures, destigmatize substance use disorder, and promote recovery.
Overdose reversal medications are truly lifesaving, rapidly reversing the effects of opioid overdose. The FDA approved certain naloxone nasal sprays for non-prescription, over-the-counter use in March and July of this year. Now, for the first time ever, naloxone is available for over-the-counter purchase at grocery stores and pharmacies across the country. Other opioid overdose reversal medications are available with a prescription and may be covered by health insurers.
Expanding access to overdose reversal medications is a key part of President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy. The Biden-Harris Administration has invested historic amounts of funding in the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program for states and tribes to make overdose reversal medications available to their residents at no cost. Using federal SOR grant dollars, states have purchased nearly 9 million naloxone kits and helped reverse more than 500,000 overdoses.
Over the past two years, the Administration has taken historic action to increase access to this life-saving tool, including:
- Convening U.S. drug manufacturers who have FDA-approved overdose reversal medication products to discuss ways to increase access and affordability to save more lives;
- Launching a campaign to educate young people on the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving effects of naloxone with the Ad Council;
- Facilitating the availability of naloxone to harm reduction organizations directly from manufacturers and distributors to support expanded public access to this critical medicine.
- Supporting states through enhanced technical assistance, policy academies, and convenings to ensure existing State Opioid Response funds are used to saturate hard-hit communities with naloxone;
- Delivering funds directly to states so they can purchase opioid overdose reversal medications; and
- Calling for an additional $100 million for harm reduction services like naloxone in the President’s FY24 budget request.
Earlier this fall, as naloxone became available for over-the-counter purchase for the first time ever, ONDCP Director Dr. Rahul Gupta joined HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and senior HHS leadership for a live naloxone demonstration event to educate HHS staff and the public on the importance of increasing awareness, reducing stigmatization, and expanding access to lifesaving overdose reversal medications. There are many forms of overdose reversal medications to meet the needs of different populations.
Read the Administration’s letter to affordable housing providers HERE.