Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli urged Congress to address $1.1 billion dollars of opioid and heroin abuse treatment funding President Barack Obama requested earlier this year.
“Only one in nine people who need treatment are able to get it,” Botticelli said in conference call Wednesday.
The lack of treatment, he said, can be due to a number of factors, such as a lack of brick-and-mortar treatment centers in some parts of the country. The funding could expand available treatment centers as well as create new ones, depending on how the individual states receiving the funding used it.
According to a survey done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1.9 million Americans in 2014 had a substance abuse disorder involving prescription painkillers. Five hundred and eighty-six thousand individuals had an abuse disorder involving heroin.
“The general consensus at the federal and local level is that substance abuse is not a moral failing,” Botticelli said. “Our biggest need is to make sure states and locals have adequate capacity to treat people.”
What treatment or prevention methods are used depends on the needs of areas suffering. To get the funding necessary to treat or prevent substance abuse, states will have to propose to the federal government how each will use the money. Botticelli said state governors play a large role in determining how the funding should be used in their state.
“Governors and states play a key role either by supporting legislation or ensuring that people have adequate coverage,” Botticelli said.
In March 2015, Gov. Mike Pence declared that a public health disaster existed in Scott County after 26 cases of HIV were reported by Feb. 25. Most of the people affected contracted HIV through needle usage. A study from the New England Journal of Medicine published earlier this year suggested that if Indiana had been more focused on prevention methods and increasing access to treatment prior to the outbreak, the impact of such situations could be abated.
“I think we’ve all acknowledged and understood that governors play a pivotal role in addressing this situation,” Botticelli said.
Although Botticelli noted there is a “huge amount of people who have already become addicted,” he said the administration had noticed a positive trend.
Overdose deaths, he said, were down, as well as the number of opioid prescriptions being prescribed.
“On the prevention side, we’re beginning to make some progress,” Botticelli said.
Still, he said more action — and thereby more funding — remains necessary to move the country from crisis to recovery.
“We hope Congress sends this bill to the President’s desk for his signature,” Botticelli said.