Federal and state governments are working to ensure opioid treatment is available in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced Tuesday that states can reallocate previously awarded formula and discretionary grants to provide opioid use disorder treatment when no other funds are available. The decision will help people in affected areas of Texas and Louisiana, where thousands have been displaced by storms.
Under Tuesday’s decision, if anyone is unable to pay for their medication in the impacted states, the state is permitted to use federal funds from the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, the State Targeted Response Opioid grant and the Medication Assisted Treatment -Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction grant programs to support the purchase of FDA-approved medications and other costs for the treatment of opioid use disorder. “During the most trying times, it becomes especially important for people to have the medications they need to maintain wellness, explained Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “What we are providing today is flexibility for the states and communities to care for people in need.”
The additional authorization supplements a standing emergency protocol for providing opioid use disorder treatment. Under federal regulations, opioid treatment programs should be able to respond to emergencies on a 24-hour basis. They are required to maintain disaster plans, including notifying patients of alternative locations where they can receive medication in the event of a facility closure. In advance of Harvey’s landfall, officials in Texas and Louisiana worked with opioid treatment programs in their states to arrange for patients’ access to medication-assisted treatment. Tuesday’s announcement of additional flexibility improves state access to funding for that medication.
Anyone looking for referrals to treatment or information may contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline, a free confidential, 24/7/365 treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental health and substance use disorders.
For people who may need crisis counselling and support during or after a disaster event, SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline also operates 24/7, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. For Spanish, Call 1-800-985-5990 and press 2 or text Hablamos to 66746.