The White House on Thursday announced an additional $450 million in funding for efforts to tackle the scourge of opioids, including fentanyl, in the United States, after President Biden declared Overdose Awareness Week.
“As we mark International Overdose Awareness Day, the Biden-Harris administration is taking action to beat the overdose epidemic and, more importantly, to save lives,” second gentleman Douglas Emhoff said in a call with reporters.
“As we know, the overdose epidemic is a national crisis. Far too many families have lost loved ones — their children, their siblings and their partners. And there are so many more Americans who know someone that has been impacted by this horrible epidemic.”
The latest funding focuses on prevention and treatment. It includes $20 million to support drug-free community coalitions working to keep communities drug-free, including a $1 million investment in an ad campaign to reach young people.
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President Joe Biden declared this week Overdose Awareness Week. (AP)
Opioids were involved in more than 100,000 overdose deaths in 2022. The most prevalent opioid is fentanyl, which is produced primarily in Mexico using Chinese precursors and then trafficked across the southern border.
Biden declared Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 Overdose Awareness Week and said the nation will “reaffirm our commitment to beating this public health and public safety epidemic in memory of all those we have lost and to protect all the lives we can still save.”
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While opioid deaths have continued to rise in recent years, the administration has pointed to data suggesting overdose numbers are slowing and have tied it to its drug strategy.
“Because of the historic investments and the Biden-Harris administration, overdoses have flattened,” Emhoff said.
Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, said “far too many families” have lost loves ones to the crisis. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, Pool)
The new funding also includes $279 million in CDC grants to expand “harm-reduction strategies” and give people life-saving care at the state and local level.
“Funded recipients will be able to respond more quickly, more effectively and more equitably to their constituents’ needs, using and translating data to drive action steps that reduce overdose deaths and related harms in communities as fast as possible,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
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Other funding includes money for substance use treatment and recovery services and an additional $19 million for funding to crack down on illicit drug trafficking in high-risk areas.
Officials have said the administration is taking a multi-faceted approach to targeting the crisis, including tackling smugglers coming into the U.S. The White House highlighted FDA approval of naloxone anti-overdose drugs, so it can be made available over the counter.
“Ending the opioid crisis is a key pillar of President Biden’s unity agenda for the nation,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director, told reporters. “And we are pushing forward to save as many lives as we can, as quickly as we can. The bottom line is this, that these actions will save lives.”
The administration has faced criticism from Republicans over the fentanyl crisis, particularly over its handling of the crisis at the southern border, which they say has exacerbated the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. Some Republicans have called for military action in Mexico to take out drug labs run by the cartels.
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The administration has pushed back on criticism and has noted its own cooperation with Mexico, sanctions it has slapped on cartel members and other actions.