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Taking New Steps to Combat Opioid Use Disorder

I believe our work to combat this public health crisis is so important. It’s also personally important to me and one of our top priorities at the Department.

If you’ve read the HHS blog before, you might have seen Blair Hubbard’s story.

Blair fought back from an addiction to heroin and prescription opioids that nearly took her life. Today she volunteers as a peer recovery support team member at the clinic that saved her, and she works part time on an HIV/Hepatitis C survey for the CDC. And to help others who are struggling with addiction, she’s working on getting her masters so she can be a professional counselor.

Blair struggled for many years with her addiction, and today, families and communities across our nation are struggling. And too many Americans who have watched a friend or loved one struggle with opioid use disorder have witnessed the toll of this epidemic.

That’s why I believe our work to combat this public health crisis is so important. It’s also personally important to me and one of our top priorities at the Department.

Last month, I was honored to be joined by representatives from every state and the District of Columbia who are committed to ending this epidemic. Held over two days, our 50-State Convening to Prevent Opioid Overdose and Addiction allowed leaders to meet to chart out our path to recovery and the steps we can take in the immediate and longer term to make an impact.

Each state left with its own regional strategy and ways to share best practices and ideas across state lines. At HHS, we’re committed to providing the resources, research and funding to help. We want to do our part.

At the summit, we discussed several initiatives that are part of our strategy to end opioid use disorder:

Increasing access to evidence-based treatment

The type of treatment that saved Blair Hubbard can save many more Americans. Medication-assisted treatment combines medicine with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorder. To help more communities across the country access this lifesaving treatment, HHS plans to issue regulations around prescribing buprenorphine-containing products for treatment of opioid dependence. Our goals are to encourage the use of evidence-based treatment, expand the supply of this important treatment, and minimize the risk of legally prescribed medications finding their way to illicit uses.  

Expanding the use of naloxone

Too many Americans face the immediate and life-threatening risk of a drug overdose. A drug called naloxone has been proven to reverse opioid overdose, and save lives. We need to make sure that it’s available all across the country. That’s why our Office of Rural Health Policy is awarding approximately $1.8 million in grants to support community partnerships that expand the reach of this medication. Communities who receive this funding can purchase naloxone and train health care professionals and their local emergency responders in how to use it.

Encouraging safe prescribing practices

In 2012, health care providers wrote over 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain killers. That’s enough for every adult in the United States to have his or her own bottle. At HHS, we’re committed to empowering providers and other health care professionals with the information and tools they need to make safer prescribing decisions, and that’s why the CDC is working on a set of guidelines for prescribers focused on prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

With our partners on the ground, and leaders like Blair, together we can make progress against the opioid epidemic.

Find out what new steps we’re taking to combat #opioid use disorder: via @HHSgov


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