CDC Commits $20 Million to Combat Prescription Drug Overdose

Program is Piece of HHS Plan to Help With National Opioid Problem

September 09, 2015 01:52 pm News Staff
[Close up of pills with young male laying head down on table]

From 1999 to 2013, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids quadrupled in the United States to more than 16,000. Prescriptions for opioids sold in the United States have also quadrupled since 1999, although Americans aren't noting more overall pain.

So on Sept. 4, the CDC announced it's launching the "Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States"( program to help states end the ongoing prescription drug overdose epidemic. The program, as part of HHS’ greater Opioid Initiative,( will invest $20 million in 16 states, giving them resources and expertise to help prevent overdose deaths related to prescription opioids. The program builds on the infrastructure of the CDC’s Prevention Drug Overdose Boost for State Prevention( program and the Core Violence and Injury Prevention Program.(

"The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a news release.( "Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states."

Story highlights
  • The CDC is launching the "Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States" program to fight the prescription drug overdose epidemic.
  • The program will invest $20 million in 16 states for resources and expertise to help prevent overdose deaths related to prescription opioids.
  • The money will be distributed during the next four years as annual awards ranging from $750,000 to $1 million.

Program Details

Through a competitive application process, the CDC initially selected 16 states to receive funds through the program: Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.

"The prescription drug overdose epidemic requires a multifaceted approach, and states are key partners in our efforts on the front lines to prevent overdose deaths," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in the release. "With this funding, states can improve their ability to track the problem, work with insurers to help providers make informed prescribing decisions and take action to combat this epidemic."

The $20 million the CDC has committed to launch this program will be distributed during the next four years as annual awards ranging from $750,000 to $1 million, subject to the availability of funds, for prevention efforts including

  • enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs,
  • putting prevention into action in communities and encouraging the education of providers and patients about the risk of prescription drug overdose,
  • working with health systems, insurers and providers to help them make informed decisions about prescribing pain medication and
  • responding to new and emerging drug overdose issues through innovative projects, including developing new surveillance systems or communications campaigns.

States also can use the funding to

  • better understand and respond to the increase in heroin overdose deaths and
  • investigate the connection between prescription opioid abuse and heroin use.

The president’s budget for FY 2016 includes a request from Burwell for the resources needed to expand the CDC’s efforts to all 50 states and launch a national program that will focus on prevention and prescription drug overdose surveillance.

Part of Greater HHS Opioid Abuse Plan

On March 26, Burwell announced that the HHS was making opioid abuse, dependence and overdose a priority with a targeted initiative to combat the epidemic.

The HHS effort focuses on three priority areas:

  1. Providing training and educational resources, including updated prescriber guidelines, to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions
  2. Increasing use of naloxone, as well as continuing to support the development and distribution of the drug, to help reduce the number of deaths associated with prescription opioid and heroin overdose
  3. Expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment, which combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders

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