$10M available for rural communities in response to fentanyl, other opioid overdoses

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2022

In support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Overdose Prevention Strategy, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced this week the availability of $10 million in substance misuse grant funding through the HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.

Rural communities are on the frontline of the surge in synthetic opioid overdoses, including fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drug overdoses. This funding will help rural communities establish new treatment access points to connect individuals to medication to treat opioid use. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) includes medications, ideally combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance misuse. Today’s funding also supports the President’s National Drug Control Strategy and delivers on his Unity Agenda priority of beating the overdose epidemic.

“Behind every overdose death is a family and a community,” said HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra. “When we fund partnerships that increase access to effective, evidence-based treatment for rural residents, we not only save lives, but also support families and strengthen communities. Addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, and we will continue doing all we can to support those struggling with substance misuse across the nation.”

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Drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose 376 percent from 3,442 in 1999 to 16,416 in 2020. The overdose crisis has evolved over time and is now largely characterized by deaths involving illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, and, increasingly, stimulants.

While overall drug overdose deaths are currently higher in urban than rural communities (22.0 per 100,000 vs. 19.6 per 100,000), nationally the increase in both rural and urban communities has been significant. Most recently, provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2021, equivalent to more than 294 lives lost per day.

Rural communities face challenges in providing opioid use treatment services, including limited access and workforce. More than half of all rural counties still lack a Drug Enforcement Administration-waivered MAT provider, and almost 30 percent of rural Americans, compared to 2.2 percent of urban Americans, live in a county without a buprenorphine provider.

“With today’s announcement, we are taking action to support individuals and families in rural communities hit hard by overdoses,” said HRSA administrator Carole Johnson. “Our priority with this funding is to increase access to life-saving treatment and help individuals build a path to recovery.”