Public polling urges more government action on opioids, two federal grants due by end of July

July 27, 2018

Congressional efforts to pass new legislation to address the nation’s opioid epidemic could slip to the fall as the Senate deals with passage of the annual appropriations bills and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The House passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, a package of 50 bills, on June 22 by a vote of 396 to 14. While many advocates applauded the House, some remain concerned about the lack of a stable, sustainable funding source.

Many of these concerns were reflected in a new poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and Politico on the public’s views on the opioid epidemic and various policy responses. While 70 percent believed that opioid misuse is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem in their state, nearly 40 percent believe opioid addiction is a personal weakness, not a medical condition, despite efforts to reduce stigma around addiction treatment. The poll also found “a major gap” between the public’s views of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and the position of many clinicians and policymakers. Researchers believe that continued stigma may be the reason that only a third of respondents supported MAT as an effective treatment. Additionally, a plurality of respondents (39 percent) thought that the federal government was not spending enough to treat people addicted to opioids, and 15 percent thought that federal spending was too high.

Two federal grant opportunities have deadlines next week. The Health Resources and Services Administration will close a planning grant, the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Planning, to support treatment for and prevention of substance use disorder, including for opioids, in high-risk rural counties. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also will be closing applications for a grant opportunity to help states improve surveillance and support public health responses to prevent overdoses.

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