News & Perspectives

White House issues report on the opioid epidemic

3. August 2017 Tom Entrikin Health

On July 31, 2017, the White House posted the initial findings and recommendations of its Commission on Combatting Drug Abuse and the Opioid Crisis.

The Commission cites evidence that:

  • 142 Americans die from drug overdoses per day.
  • Only 10 percent of the 21 million persons with a substance use disorder (SUD) are receiving appropriate treatment for it.
  • Over 40 percent of persons with an SUD also have a mental health disorder but less than half of them are receiving appropriate treatment for either disorder.
  • About 80 percent of new heroin users begin with prescription opioids.

The Commission recommends that the White House take steps to: 

  • Help states increase opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment capacity through waivers of Medicaid funding restrictions on institutions for mental diseases (IMDs). 
  • Launch a federal initiative to enhance access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  • Encourage state Medicaid agencies to cover all FDA-approved MAT drugs for OUD treatment.
  • Disseminate model legislation for states to allow standing orders for emergency medications that can rapidly counteract overdoses.
  • Encourage states to offer prescription education activities in collaboration with medical and dental schools, as Governor Baker has done in Massachusetts.

These and many other recommendations are outlined in the Commission’s initial report.  The Commission was created through an Executive Order signed on March 29, 2017.  It took comprehensive public testimony on June 16, 2017, including input from 50 organizations and 8,000 public comments.  It expects to release another report this fall.  The initial, interim report is available through the White House website here.