Today, in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Overdose Prevention Strategy, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the availability of $10 million in substance misuse grant funding through the HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.
Rural communities are on the frontline of the surge in synthetic opioid overdoses, including fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drug overdoses. This funding will help rural communities establish new treatment access points to connect individuals to medication to treat opioid use. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) includes medications, ideally combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance misuse. Today’s funding also supports the President’s National Drug Control Strategy and delivers on his Unity Agenda priority of beating the overdose epidemic.
“Behind every overdose death is a family and a community,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “When we fund partnerships that increase access to effective, evidence-based treatment for rural residents, we not only save lives, but also support families and strengthen communities. Addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for the Biden-Harris Administration, and we will continue doing all we can to support those struggling with substance misuse across the nation.”
Drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose 376 percent from 3,442 in 1999 to 16,416 in 2020. The overdose crisis has evolved over time and is now largely characterized by deaths involving illicitly manufactured synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, and, increasingly, stimulants. While overall drug overdose deaths are currently higher in urban than rural communities (22.0 per 100,000 vs. 19.6 per 100,000), nationally the increase in both rural and urban communities has been significant. Most recently, provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2021, equivalent to more than 294 lives lost per day.
Rural communities face challenges in providing opioid use treatment services, including limited access and workforce. More than half of all rural counties still lack a Drug Enforcement Administration-waivered MAT provider, and almost 30 percent of rural Americans, compared to 2.2 percent of urban Americans, live in a county without a buprenorphine provider.
“With today’s announcement, we are taking action to support individuals and families in rural communities hit hard by overdoses,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “Our priority with this funding is to increase access to life-saving treatment and help individuals build a path to recovery.”
The $10 million announcement today builds on the $15 million announced last week for rural communities to address psychostimulant misuse and related overdose deaths. These investments reflect HHS’ commitment to evidence-based programs addressing opioid and stimulant misuse, as reflected in the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 proposed budget for HHS on drug-related programs and initiatives that totaled $21.1 billion across HHS. This budget included funding to expand access to substance use prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services; as well as funding to bolster the nation’s behavioral health infrastructure.
HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy administers the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, which has provided over $400 million in direct grants and technical assistance to rural communities addressing behavioral health care challenges, including substance misuse. The initiative has expanded access to substance misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services in more than 1,500 rural communities nationwide.
Applicants can begin the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program application process on Grants.gov and must apply by Friday July 29, 2022 at 11:59 PM, ET. Visit the Notice of Funding Opportunity for more information.
For more information about HRSA’s efforts to address barriers to treatment for substance misuse in rural areas, visit HRSA’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
To learn more about the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy, visit the HHS webpage.