President Biden announced a fresh batch of federal funding Friday that will go toward battling the opioid epidemic — including overdose responses and recovery.
The funding, which totals $1.5 billion, will be distributed to states, territories and tribal lands.
While the opioid crisis has been devastating for years, it reached a record high during the COVID-19 pandemic, with drug overdose deaths jumping 28% between April 2020 and April 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our nation is facing 108,000 overdose deaths in just 12 months. That’s one life lost every five minutes around the clock,” Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said at a recent news briefing. “President Biden and this administration are taking historic actions to meet this challenge.”
Among the funds, $104 million will be used specifically for rural areas — which have historically been hit hard with opioid addiction and overdoses – to bolster treatment and prevention programs.
As part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, the funds will help launch new sites where people can access medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and boost workforce mentorship and training, according to a White House outline.
Meanwhile, $20.5 million will go towards recovery support, namely organizations that can connect people with addiction to community resources. Another $12 million will go towards law enforcement in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.
In tandem with the funding announcement, the Food and Drug Administration also released guidelines Friday that would help get naloxone products to people who need them more efficiently.
For its part, The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration launched a website, the Recovery-Ready Workplace Resource Hub, that will aim to provide resources for businesses hoping to support employees in recovery.
While harm reduction programs have popped up on local levels throughout the U.S. in recent years, including syringe service programs and supervised consumption sites, there has been less of an onus on the national level. Still, the Biden administration has begun to embrace some harm reduction wording in its drug policy approach, more so than past administrations.