On International Overdose Awareness Day, the Biden-Harris administration announced more than $450 million in new funding that will help to reduce overdose deaths, support in recovery efforts, crack down on illicit drug trafficking and invest in information campaigns aimed at young people.
The funds will go to strengthen prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services. In 2022, over 100,000 lives were lost to overdose.
President Biden declared August 27 through September 2 as Overdose Awareness Week, to focus attention on the damage caused by illicit fentanyl and other drugs. The administration is working to provide funding directly to support city, county, and territorial health departments, which is a first according to their fact sheet provided to PoliticusUSA.
Another example of how the funds will be spent is more than $80 million will go to rural communities in 39 states to fund the distribution of naloxone (an opioid antagonist) to prevent fatal overdose, as well as creating and expanding treatment sites and expand access to behavioral health care for young people.
The funds will also spend nearly 19 million for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas programs (HIDTA) to help communities stop drug traffickers and prevent drug related gun crimes.
Read more details here: Overdose Awareness Day Fact Sheet
Fentanyl deaths increased in 2022, though it is a “slowing increase,” which is why the administration says the continued resources are necessary. Senior Administration Officials said the deaths are increasing because supplies are more lethal.
In terms of how bad this crisis is, the CDC says the number of people who died from a drug overdose in 2021 was more than six times the number in 1999, more than 16% from 2020 to 2021, and over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid.
“Behind each of these lives are friends, families, and communities torn apart by overdose,” White House Domestic Policy Advisor director Neera Tanden said on a call with reporters Thursday morning.
As we fight one source of overdoses, a new form pops up to replace the old. The CDC reports from 2020 to 2021:
Opioid-involved death rates increased by over 15%.
Prescription opioid-involved death rates remained the same.
Heroin-involved death rates decreased nearly 32%.
Synthetic opioid-involved death rates (excluding methadone) increased over 22%.
The DEA describes fentanyl as “a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.”
Mixing fentanyl with other drugs, including xylazine, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, increases risk of overdose and is sometimes done without the user’s knowledge.
“We know the overdose epidemic is a national crisis,” Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff said on a call with reporters Thursday morning. “Far too many families have lost loved ones, their children, their siblings and their partners and there’s so many more Americans who knows someone that has been impacted by this horrible epidemic. Substance abuse disorders impact families across all of our nation and cities and rural areas red states blue states. In short, this impacts everyone.”
Previously, the administration has spent $83 billion on helping people get treatment, save lives and reach recovery, which is a 42% increase over the previous four years, according to a senior administration official.
What else have they done? “We’ve also put a record number of sanctions on cartels and Chinese companies and individuals, primary source of fentanyl shipping to the U.S. We’ve also had a record number of seizures as well as expansion of treatment with telehealth provisions, which are not accessing health to the most marginalized communities in terms of addiction, people who are in rural communities and communities of color,” a senior administration official reported.
Asked why President Biden isn’t using the bully pulpit more to discourage China, which is a primary source of shipping fentanyl to the U.S., a senior administration official told us, “The fact is that I think this President has been tougher in China in terms of making sure that the illicit actors, the private sectors that are shipping these chemicals are – we’re going after. This is why not only did he expand through an Executive Order the ability to not only go after traffickers, but also the enablers. This includes the amount and number of sanctions that are being placed against Chinese chemical companies and Chinese individuals, in addition to Mexican cartels.”
Biden declared fentanyl trafficking a national emergency in a December 15, 2021 Executive Order.
Later this afternoon, the Administration will host family members who have lost loved ones to a drug overdose to listen and collaborate on efforts to save lives. This is said to be a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration, and we know that President Biden has seen the devastation of drug addiction in his own family. It’s sadly likely that almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted in some way.
The drug overdose epidemic is a national crisis ripping through our families and communities, in addition to posing a national security threat. If you or someone you know needs help, SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish): 1-800-662-HELP (4357).