Federal money to fight opioid crisis may be going to wrong places, new report says

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More funding for treatment is needed to truly fight the opioid epidemic, according to advocates and some lawmakers.

But a new report Saturday says federal assistance for addiction medications, such as methadone, may be going to the wrong places and that the federal government needs to figure out how to give funding to the places that need it the most.

The report from the Clinton Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was released Saturday, two days after President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

But Trump did not add any new money to combatting the epidemic that kills 91 Americans a day. That left him open to criticism from Democrats and advocates that more money needs to be devoted to treatment.

However, the report found that more thought needs to be put into where exactly that money should go, especially to fund access to the addiction treatments buprenorphine and methadone.

“Treatment services are disproportionately distributed across communities and do not always reflect need,” the report signed by 38 experts says. “Using federal resources to identify communities most in need of treatment services and to expand treatment capacity will help to address this disparity.”

For instance, the ability to expand the use of methadone is “limited by a short supply of licensed programs in non-urban communities and requirements such as daily attendance,” the report says.

This year, the Trump administration gave out $28 million in grant money to five unnamed grantees to increase access to addiction treatments, according to Health and Human Services. The funding was part of grants provided by the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by former President Barack Obama late last year.

The Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, which was also signed into law last year, also aimed to expand use of treatment assistance.

The report says that more federal help is needed to “develop and expand existing services so that low-threshold treatment is available to all individuals with opioid-use disorders seeking treatment, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Other recommendations for action include requiring the registration and use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are electronic databases that track prescriptions of controlled substances such as opioids in a state. Currently, 30 states mandate registration, and 39 force doctors to register and use the databases, the report said.

More funding is also needed for research to assess new packaging such as locking pill vials that can prevent misuse. No funding is dedicated to that research, the report says.

Congress is considering several bills, including legislation to stifle distribution of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is more potent than heroin, but Republican congressional leadership have not said if they will push for more funding.

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