The Trump administration announced an ambitious program to reduce deaths from opioid overdoses by 40 percent over three years in hard-hit communities across several states, reports the Washington Post. The $353 million effort will test the idea that the best approaches to combat the drug crisis are well known but poorly implemented. It will employ a comprehensive strategy in each community that encourages the involvement of doctors, treatment providers, law enforcement, courts, churches and even housing providers. Such an approach that has worked in a few places. Critics have long complained that even the small number of substance abusers who are able to find treatment often are abandoned when they seek jobs, housing or continued counseling and social support. Those problems often lead to repeated relapses.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar endorseda system under which an arrested user might be handed off from police to a drug court to treatment and then to agencies that provide housing, counseling and other support. “We don’t have to be intimidated by the scope and scale of this challenge,” Azar said Thursday. “We can do it now.” The money will come from the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term initiative and will go to the University of Kentucky ($87 million); Boston Medical Center ($89 million); Columbia University ($86 million) and Ohio State University ($65.9 million). Each university will work with at least 15 towns or counties in its state to design programs and assess how well they work. RTI International, a nonprofit research institute in North Carolina, was awarded $25.5 million to pool and coordinate data generated for the research. The National Academy of Sciences concluded last month that most people with an opioid use disorder receive no treatment at all, and only a small fraction of those who do have access to appropriate drugs.