Last Tuesday, the White House released the estimated amount of federal funding each state could qualify to receive in the budget President Obama has proposed to Congress for 2017. The estimated amount for Pennsylvania is $46 million.
Each state is allocated a different amount based on the drug poisoning death rate per 100,000 there, and the availability of treatment for those who seek it. The total funding proposal is $1.1 billion, to be disbursed over two years.
States are allocated funding based on the epidemic in their community and the strength of their response, according to Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
“The key priority is to recognize substance abuse as a disease,” he said in a press call last Tuesday afternoon. A major part of the funding, then, is to bolster treatment and recovery services.
“Right now, we have a significant gap between those seeking treatment and those able to get it, especially in rural areas,” Botticelli said. “Everyone who seeks treatment for an opioid abuse disorder should be able to have access.”
Pennsylvania ranked eighth in the country for drug poisoning deaths in 2014 with an age-adjusted rate of 21.9 per 100,000 people. Bucks County was one of the 33 counties with an average of more than 15 deaths per year. This puts the state at a steady rise above the national average, despite the annual rate of dispensed opioid pain reliever prescriptions remaining consistent.
Botticelli stressed that the numbers were estimates, and subject to change as the budget is negotiated. Currently, legislation introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) would authorize $600 million nationally for prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery from opioid and heroin abuse. But, that legislation, introduced in November, has yet to gain traction.
Funding packages like these are in line with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which Congress approved in February. It authorizes the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to address prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, especially through treatment and recovery, but does not actually provide any funding itself.
“This is a disease. What I hear from police chiefs across New Hampshire is that we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” said Shaheen during the call.