Is the 'tide turning' on the opioid epidemic? Trump admin, rolling out new efforts, says yes.

The Trump administration this week announced new efforts to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic, as President Trump signed into law a sweeping, bipartisan bill to address opioid misuse.

New tool: Access the Medicare Opioid Prescription Assessment

Trump signs opioid bill

Trump on Wednesday signed into law a bipartisan, bicameral legislative package (HR 6) that seeks to address the opioid epidemic through a variety of public health initiatives. Among other things the law aims to expand access to treatments for opioid use disorders, promote the development of alternative treatments for pain, and prevent the entry of illicit drugs into the United States.

New efforts to address opioid misuse

Trump signed the bill one day after HHS announced a new initiative, called the Maternal Opioid Misuse (MOM) Model, which is intended to bolster opioid use disorder treatment among Medicaid beneficiaries who are pregnant or who recently gave birth. The model also aims to increase treatment for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Under the five-year initiative, HHS will dole out up to $64.5 million in grants to states. States will use the money to connect women with treatment and support networks.

Separately, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Ad Council, and the Truth Initiative announced plans to launch a new ad as part of the White House's "The Truth About Opioids" campaign, which targets young adults. According to Becker's Hospital Review, the ad, called "Treatment Box," features the true story of a 26-year-old woman who is receiving evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder.

In addition, an HHS official has confirmed that HHS Secretary Alex Azar intends to extend for a fourth time Trump's public health emergency declaration for the opioid epidemic, "Pulse" reports.

Azar says tide is turning on opioid epidemic

Azar on Tuesday declared that the United States is "beginning to turn the tide" on the opioid epidemic, noting that preliminary CDC data show the rate of overdose deaths declined by 2.8% toward the end of 2017 when compared with the rest of the year. However, the data show the number of overdose deaths increased overall from 2016 to 2017, rising from about 64,000 to about 72,000. According to the data, about 42,000 U.S. residents died from opioid-related overdoses in 2017.

"We are so far from the end of the epidemic, but we are perhaps, at the end of the beginning." Azar said, adding, "The seemingly relentless trend of rising overdose deaths seems to be finally bending in the right direction." However, Azar continued, "Plateauing at such a high level is hardly an opportunity to declare victory" (Abutaleb, Reuters, 10/24; Owermohle, "Pulse," Politico, 10/24; Weixel, The Hill, 10/23; Sullivan, NPR, 10/24; Diamond, "Pulse" Politico, 10/23; Baker, "Vitals," Axios, 10/24; Bernstein, Washington Post, 10/23; Frieden, MedPage Today, 10/23; Cook, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/22).

Your top resources for combatting the opioid epidemic—in one place

The opioid epidemic is a complex, multi-dimensional public health problem. Use this list of helpful resources on how hospitals and health systems can play a role to treat opioid addiction and prevent further increase in opioid abuse.

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