HHS also announces new actions to build on this progress
Today, at the Whitman-Walker Health Center in Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra marked the one-year anniversary of HHS’s Overdose Prevention Strategy (Strategy) by announcing the progress the nation has made since the release of the Strategy, showing expanded treatment capacity, lives saved from overdose, and commitment to long term recovery supports. Secretary Becerra also highlighted one recent action, and announced another new action taken by HHS to build on this groundbreaking progress by expanding access to the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. The Overdose Prevention Strategy helps advance President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy and his Unity Agenda to beat the overdose epidemic.
“Now, one year after the release of this Strategy, our nation is in a much stronger position to treat addiction and save lives,” Secretary Becerra said. “We didn’t get here by accident. Thanks to decades of work by advocates – coupled with an unparalleled people-first strategy and unprecedented investment by the Biden-Harris Administration – we have made a great deal of progress.”
"Deaths caused by opioids like illicit fentanyl are preventable with naloxone, and today’s announcement means more life-saving naloxone will be in communities across the country,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The latest data continue to show a hopeful trend of a decrease in overdose deaths, so we must remain focused on fully implementing President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy that will save tens of thousands of lives by expanding care for substance use disorder, making naloxone more accessible, and dismantling drug trafficking operations.”
Since the release of the Strategy last fall, the nation has dramatically increased its capacity to treat addiction. The number of health care providers with waivers to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD) increased by 19% over the last year (from 110,491 providers in October of 2021 to 132,005 providers in September 2022). According to an HHS-authored research study that was released today, this increase was linked in part to HHS’s efforts over the past year to remove barriers for clinicians seeking to obtain a waiver. HHS is committed to continuing efforts to remove barriers for individuals that are seeking treatment.
The nation has also increased its capacity to save lives from overdose since the release of the strategy. The number of naloxone prescriptions filled in pharmacies has increased by 37% (from a 3-month average of 109,414 prescriptions in October 2021 to 150,213 in August 2022), and the average price of naloxone products purchased in pharmacies has fallen 12%. This means that it’s now easier for people to access this lifesaving overdose reversal drugs so that they can help save a life.
As Secretary Becerra announced during the press conference, HHS will continue to build on the Overdose Prevention Strategy with new actions:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that every state, local, and territorial awardee of the CDC Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement can use a portion of their funds to purchase naloxone, giving public health departments robust access to naloxone.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a Federal Register Notice stating that certain naloxone products have the potential to be safe and effective for over-the-counter use. In the notice, FDA encouraged applications for over-the-counter naloxone products.
Released last fall, HHS’s Overdose Prevention Strategy is designed to address the overdose crisis by increasing access to the full continuum of care and services for people who use substances that cause overdose. The strategy has four main pillars – Primary Prevention, Evidence-Based Treatment, Harm Reduction, and Recovery Supports – and focuses on the diverse array of substances involved in overdose, as well as the diverse treatment approaches for substance use disorders.
The Strategy reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to maximize health equity for underserved populations, using the best available data and evidence to inform policy and actions, integrate substance use care and services into other types of health care and social services, and reduce stigma. Two of the Strategy’s pillars – harm reduction and recovery support – are groundbreaking in that they represent the first time a coordinated, federal focus has been devoted to two areas that have been supported by grassroots efforts for decades.
The overdose crisis has continued to evolve over the past few decades. Illicitly manufactured synthetics like fentanyl are involved in the majority of overdose deaths and are often mixed with other substances without a buyer’s knowledge. Deaths involving stimulants have also increased and a growing number of overdose deaths involve multiple substances. HHS is continually updating its response to reflect the changing dynamics of the crisis.
For a list of key actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken through HHS to address the addiction and overdose crisis over the last year, see this White House fact sheet.
The President’s Fiscal Year 2023 proposed budget for HHS on programs supporting the Overdose Prevention Strategy totals $10.9 billion across HHS, $3.1 billion more than in FY 2022, a 40 percent increase from FY 2022 (Enacted), and includes funding to significantly expand efforts related to primary prevention, evidence-based treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services across HHS programs; as well as funding to bolster the nation’s behavioral health infrastructure. In particular, the budget proposes to more than double funding directed toward access to recovery support services.
For more information on the new Overdose Prevention Strategy, visit: www.hhs.gov/overdose-prevention/. Read the full issue brief here: https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/overdose-prevention-strategy. Read the fact sheet here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/12/02/fact-sheet-hhs-announces-new-data-showing-nation-has-expanded-its-ability-treat-addiction-save-lives.html
Additional Statements by Administration Officials
Andrea Palm, Deputy Secretary, HHS
“HHS’s approach to Overdose Prevention puts people at the center of their care. We have taken bold steps to ensure equitable access to care and to reduce stigma. As we celebrate our progress, we recognize there is much more to be done. We look forward to continuing this critical work with our partners within and outside of government.”
Admiral Rachel Levine, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health
“We are excited to break new ground in providing coordinated, federal support to the harm reduction and recovery support arenas, which have been supported for decades primarily by grassroots efforts. As we move forward to address our nation’s overdose crisis, we must give particular consideration to those who have been denied opportunities and are disproportionately impacted by poor access to quality health care and roadblocks to their well-being. We have not made progress unless we have made progress for all.”
Benjamin Sommers, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
“Our office is committed to continuing to support the implementation of HHS’s Overdose Prevention Strategy. Working with our colleagues across the Department, we will ensure that the Strategy is guided by data, evidence, and a commitment to equity, so that HHS can continue to deliver the most effective programs to the diverse communities we serve.”
Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, and leader of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
“We mark a year into the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy’s implementation, committed to translating its four pillars into expanded treatment access and recovery throughout our nation. SAMHSA’s funding, technical assistance and policies are all devoted to saving lives and helping Americans struggling with substance use disorders to experience and sustain long-term recovery.”
Dr. Debra Houry, Acting Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“The nation’s opioid overdose epidemic is heartbreaking and preventable. CDC continues to support the efforts of the administration by expanding the scope of prevention activities to address new and emerging challenges facing our communities. CDC is committed to fighting the opioid overdose epidemic and saving lives.”
Dr. Robert M. Califf, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration
The HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy provides an energizing vision for collaborating across the federal government and with communities to combat the overdose crisis. The FDA is pleased to be part of this progress by leveraging the agency’s Overdose Prevention Framework that supports the HHS strategy. As part of our collective efforts, among other things, we’ve undertaken several initiatives to improve access to naloxone to help reduce opioid overdose deaths. The FDA will continue to do our part as a regulatory public health agency to focus on the goals of the HHS strategy ultimately aiming to prevent drug overdoses and reduce deaths.
Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
“Communities nationwide have been devastated by the drug overdose and addiction crisis. For too many years, we have treated addiction as a moral failure. However, through sustained investments in communities like those made this past year through the Overdose Prevention Strategy, we continue the fight to address addiction as the public health crisis it is and to support every person who has been affected with skill, compassion, and urgency.”
January Contreras, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
“Treating and overcoming addiction involves the whole family,” said ACF. It’s going to take all of us to make sure Americans have the prevention, treatment, and recovery resources needed to keep their families healthy and whole. ACF will continue to work across silos to serve and meet people wherever they are on their journey.”
Carole Johnson, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration
“Far too many daughters and sons, parents, friends, and colleagues have been lost to the overdose crisis. At the Health Resources and Services Administration, we are working every day to reverse these trends by expanding access to substance use disorder treatment, particularly in historically underserved communities and rural areas. We’re investing in treatment and recovery supports across rural communities, expanding access to naloxone and treatment through community health centers, funding the training of the next generation of substance use disorder health professionals, and offering incentives like loan repayment in return for treatment providers practicing in the communities that need them most. The work is far from done, but we are pleased to join with our partners across HHS in marking the anniversary of the Department’s Overdose Strategy and committing to the work ahead.”
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
“The health care coverage CMS offers through our programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and the Marketplaces—provides a lifeline not only for those in crisis, but also for long-term recovery,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Our nation’s progress is a testament to high-quality, person-centered, affordable health care coverage. We’re committed to putting the full momentum of this agency behind that power, and its potential to save lives.”
Roselyn Tso, Director, Indian Health Service
“The Secretary’s Overdose Prevention Strategy is reinforcing our efforts at the Indian Health Service to address the needs of patients with opioid use disorder and to improve the overall health and wellbeing of tribal communities. The focus on preventing overdoses is significant as we work to prevent substance abuse disorder, reduce harm and support evidence-based strategies and recovery within American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Strengthening behavioral health is a priority for the IHS. We have made investments to assist more families across American Indian and Alaska Native communities – as we work to tackle public health crises associated with COVID-19 and support people struggling with the pandemic’s impact.”