President Barack Obama pledged again Tuesday to press for new federal funding to fight opioid abuse in the United States.
More than 28,600 Americans died in 2014 from abuse of opioids — a class of drugs that includes both legal painkillers and illegal heroin — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s important to recognize that today, we are seeing more people killed because of opioid overdose than traffic accidents,” Obama said at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
Obama in February urged Congress to approve $1.1 billion in funds to help provide opioid abuse treatment to all Americans who want it.
The president told the summit that the U.S. would continue efforts to secure international borders to block the importation of illegal drugs, but he said more needed to be done to stop illegal drug use.
“What we have to recognize is in this global economy of ours, the most important thing we can do is to reduce demand for drugs," he said. "And the only way that we reduce demand is if we’re providing treatment.”
The president announced that the Department of Health and Human Services was proposing a regulation to make the anti-addiction drug buprenorphine available to more drug-addicted patients through qualified physicians.
The federal government is releasing $11 million to states to expand medication-assisted treatment services. That includes the purchase and distribution of the overdose drug naltrexone.
And a federal infusion of $94 million earlier this month to hundreds of community health centers across the country potentially could treat nearly 124,000 new patients.
U.S. officials hope that by putting opioid addiction and treatment front and center on the U.S. health care agenda, they can make a dent in the illegal drug problem.