HHS Hosts 50-State Convening Focused on Preventing Opioid Overdose and Opioid Use Disorder

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell today kicked off a two-day intensive convening of representatives from all 50 states and Washington, DC focused on preventing opioid overdose and opioid use disorder. During her remarks, the secretary announced that HHS will move to expand access to medication-assisted treatment by revising the regulations related to the prescribing of buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence. She also announced $1.8 million in awards to rural communities to expand access to naloxone – a drug that reverses an opioid overdose.

In 2013, overdoses from prescription opioid pain relievers claimed more than 16,200 lives, with more than 145,000 people dying from these overdoses in the last decade. Heroin deaths have also been climbing sharply, more than doubling between 2010 and 2013. The resulting health, social, and economic consequences for communities across the country are enormous.

“The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries; it touches lives in cities, rural counties and suburban neighborhoods across the country,” said Secretary Burwell in a news release. “That’s why it’s so important that we come together – both state and federal leaders - and take a coordinated and comprehensive approach to address this crisis. We all have a role to play and fortunately we share common ground and a common commitment to end this crisis.”

The secretary also announced today grant awards of approximately $1.8 million from the Office of Rural Health Policy in HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration to support rural communities in reducing opioid overdose and death. Recipients, representing 13 states, will use the funding to purchase naloxone, train health care professionals and local emergency responders in the use of naloxone, and facilitate the referral of people with opioid use disorder to substance abuse treatment.

In addition to the secretary, attendees will hear from Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden, as well as a number of other HHS leaders.

The convening is a collaboration between HHS and the National Governors’ Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. This is the second national meeting that HHS has convened on the opioid epidemic.

For the secretary’s full remarks from the convening, click here.

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