HHS awards $94 million to help treat prescription opioid, heroin abuse

healthcareHealth and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $94 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” said Secretary Burwell. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”

The abuse of and addiction to opioids, such as heroin and prescription pain medication, is a serious and increasing public health problem. Approximately 4.5 million people in the United States were non-medical prescription pain reliever users in 2013, and an estimated 289,000 were current heroin users. HHS also estimates the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain medications has nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013, and deaths related to heroin increased 39 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Administered by the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards to health centers across the country will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to MAT for opioid use and other substance use disorder treatment, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions.  This $94 million investment is expected to help awardees hire approximately 800 providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients.

“Health centers treat some of the most at-risk patients in the country,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae. “These awards position health centers to be at the forefront of the fight against opioid abuse in underserved communities.”

Research demonstrates that a whole-patient approach to treatment through a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies is most successful in treating opioid use disorders. In 2014, over 1.3 million people received behavioral health services at health centers, This represents a 75 percent increase since 2008 and was made possible with support from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Recovery Act.  Today’s funding builds upon and leverages these previous investments by providing support to health centers to improve and expand the delivery of MAT substance abuse services in an integrated primary care/behavioral health model with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

Today, over 1,300 health centers operate approximately 9,000 service delivery sites in every U.S. state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Pacific Basin; these health centers employ more than 170,000 staff who provide care for nearly 23 million patients. In 2014, health centers provided behavioral health services to more than 1.3 million patients, including those in need of substance abuse services.

“HRSA’s innovative investment in the delivery of medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders affirms the importance of behavioral health to overall health,” said Kana Enomoto, Acting Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Addressing the opioid crisis is a top priority for the Administration and the Department. The Department is focused on three key areas: improving opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone, and increasing access to MAT.  In addition, the President has made addressing the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic a top priority and issued a Presidential Memorandum last year on improving access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders.  Today’s awards are an example of HHS taking every available step to expand access to MAT.  Building on these efforts, the President’s Budget includes a $1.1 billion initiative to help ensure that all individuals with opioid use disorders who want treatment are able to access it.

  • To view a list of the award winners, visit here.
  • For more information on the Department’s key areas of focus to address the opioids crisis, visit here.
  • To learn more about HRSA’s Health Center Program, visit here.
  • To find a health center in your area, visit here.


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