Latest action advances President Biden’s Unity Agenda efforts to beat the overdose epidemic, continuing commitment to a whole-of-society effort to prevent fatal overdoses, reduce stigmatization associated with addiction, and save lives
Washington, D.C. – Today, in support of President Biden’s Unity Agenda efforts to beat the overdose epidemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) announced new guidance recommending that all federal facilities across the nation include overdose reversal medications in their safety stations on site. The recommendation will make life-saving medications like naloxone more readily available in case of an emergency situation.
“Far too many lives are being lost to overdose. Fortunately, we know what it takes to save people. Safety stations save lives,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We must continue to do everything we can to make sure the necessary tools are quickly and easily available so anyone can respond to an emergency situation – anytime, anywhere. It’s about empowering everyone to play a role in saving lives when it counts the most.”
“Saving lives is at the very core of the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy and that’s why it’s so important for federal facilities to have naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications readily available,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “Taking this step ensures these lifesaving medications are accessible, and protects the millions of Americans that work in and visit these facilities every year.”
The updated guidelines expand the concept of an automated external defibrillators (AED) program by introducing the “safety station,” which would enable anyone located within a federal facility to access the necessary tools quickly and easily to respond to an emergency situation. Under the new guidance, anywhere that an AED was previously located can and should be converted to a safety station. Each safety station is recommended to include an AED and supporting equipment at a minimum. It is now highly recommended that each station also includes either a bystander-empowered opioid reversal agent or hemorrhagic control component, or both.
Expanding access to overdose reversal medications is a key part of President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy, and the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action over the past three years to deliver on this priority. 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. HHS’s Overdose Prevention Strategy, which is designed to address the overdose crisis by increasing access to the full continuum of care and services for people who use substances that cause overdose, including increasing availability of overdose reversal medications. Using federal SOR grant dollars, states have purchased nearly 9 million naloxone kits and helped reverse more than 500,000 overdoses. Earlier this year, the FDA also approved certain naloxone nasal sprays for non-prescription, over-the-counter use in March and July. 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 also available with a prescription and may be covered by health insurers.
Today’s announcement also delivers on President Biden’s Unity Agenda, which focuses on issues where all Americans can come together and make progress for the nation. During his first State of the Union Address, President Biden announced beating the overdose epidemic as one of the four pillars of his Unity Agenda. Since then, the Administration has worked to strengthen not only the whole-of-government response, but the whole-of-society response to address this public health and public safety crisis head-on. Earlier this month, ONDCP, HHS, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called on 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, noting the critical role housing providers play in ensuring that all public spaces have lifesaving medications on hand and people are prepared to use it. Last month, ONDCP and the U.S. Department of Education called on schools and educators to have overdose reversal medications on site and ensure their students and faculty are prepared to use it in the event of a drug poisoning or overdose to save lives.
As naloxone became available for over-the-counter purchase for the first time ever earlier this summer, 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.
Over the past three years, the Administration has taken historic action to increase access to this lifesaving 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 lifesaving 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.