On September 19th, the Obama administration published a press release announcing the government’s latest concerted effort to raise awareness for the nation’s heroin and opioid addiction crisis. This new effort is worth $1.1 billion, which the Congress has been requested to fund, and will include several new initiatives.
President Obama has declared the present week “Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.” Hence, throughout the course of this week, the federal government will be making a series of policy announcements and speeches.
The primary initiatives that are a part of this effort by the Obama administration include:
An increase in number of patients that can be prescribed buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorders, from 100 to 275.
Coordination with the Chinese government for the establishment of enhanced measures to prevent “fentanyl and its analogues” from entering the U.S.
Expansion of the TRICARE system’s substance use disorder treatment
Promotion of healthcare- and substance abuse disorder treatment-related “distance learning and telemedicine programs”
According to Loretta Lynch, the current U.S. Attorney General, American families are entangled in and have no control over this epidemic, which is resulting in harrowing and tragic consequences for them. She claims that no American community, family or individual is exempt or safe from this epidemic that the nation is in the middle of.
Loretta is just one of the many administration officials who will be going back and forth across the United States this week to raise awareness for this opioid and heroin epidemic. This Tuesday, she had paid a visit to a local high school in Lexington, Kentucky, where she had a meeting with parents who drug addicts who have died as a result of a heroin or opium overdose. She also visited the University of Kentucky, where she delivered a policy speech.
The policies had already been previewed by Loretta beforehand. Currently, she is in charge of supervising a total of 94 United States attorneys in their respective judicial districts. She claims that all of those attorneys have been instructed to coordinate with public health authorities for the purpose of enforcement and to share prescription drug abuse-related information across state lines. Along with enforcement, these attorneys will also be focusing on the prevention and treatment of drug abuse.
The Bureau of Prisons, the organized crime task force, and the United States Department of Agriculture are also taking part in this effort by the Obama administration, and will be carrying out their own respective initiatives.
Tom Vilsack’s beliefs and views also coincide with those of Loretta Lynch. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has also claimed that American families of any race, belonging to any economic strata and any location can be and are being affected by this epidemic. However, he adds that it is worse for Americans in the rural areas of the U.S. because help and treatment is not available to them, even when they seek it out.
As of now, there are approximately 1,000 behavioral service centers in the United States where drug addicts can receive treatment for heroin addiction. Unfortunately, rural areas only have 25 of such behavioral service centers. Thus, $4.7 million out of that $1.1 billion fund will be spent on a medicine program so that brand new behavioral service centers can be established in rural areas. This way, the necessary substance use treatment will be available to people from those areas and remote consultation with specialists will be possible.