WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The number of drug overdose deaths dropped last year for the first time in nearly 30 years. Health officials now say they’re continuing their efforts to keep that success going.
A huge amount of tax dollars is already being pumped into communities to help stop the epidemic – and more is on the way. Nearly $400 million will soon flow into communities battered by opioids.
“Each of these grants is going to be used to hire professionals, like counselors and social workers and nurses and licensed mental health providers,” Vice President Mike Pence announced last week.
The $400 million is part of a billion-dollar investment by the Trump Administration to fight opioid addiction.
“I want to, by January 2021, have saved the equivalent of 10,000 lives that would have been lost at the peak point of our epidemic,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Giroir says the grant money will pay to make drug abuse treatment a part of traditional healthcare facilities. It will also provide more support in rural areas and will pay to expand the behavioral health workforce.
“We are finally starting to really turn the epidemic around but we have a long, long way to go,” he said.
Recent data released by the CDC shows the United States may actually be starting to get an upper hand on the epidemic.
“Last year, overdose deaths decreased by nearly five percent nationwide,” Pence said.
Those metrics are encouraging to health officials.
“The bottom line is, and I ask this to myself, is how do you know you’re being successful? And to me the bottom line is, are we saving lives?” Giroir said.
He also says with this much tax money being handed out, oversight is key.
“You have to follow the best science, and we police that,” he said.