HHS awards $50 million to assist American Indian and Alaska Native tribal efforts combating the opioid overdose epidemic

The Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded grants of about $50 million to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes Tuesday to strengthen their efforts to combat the opioid overdose epidemic.

The Tribal Opioid Response grant program aims to address the opioid overdose epidemic in tribal communities by increasing access to culturally appropriate and evidence-based treatment, including medication-assisted treatment using one of the three FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD).

“The new Tribal Opioid Response grant program will help provide access to a wide array of treatment solutions for tribal communities, including medication-assisted treatment,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “Accessing treatment services can be especially challenging in rural areas like many parts of Indian Country. We will continue to engage with tribal nations through the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee and community visits to hear concerns and develop programs that build on the strengths of tribal culture and customs.”

“The intent of awarding the grants is unmistakable – we know people who have OUDs are not accessing effective, evidence-based treatment often enough,” said Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “We want to reduce unmet treatment needs and opioid-related fatal overdoses by strengthening communities’ provision of treatment and psychosocial services.”

Tuesday’s awards follow Monday’s announcement by HHS of disbursing three new grants totaling $6.2 million for treating opioid use disorder and for increasing access to mental health services for young people in Fairbanks, Alaska. The grants, also administered by SAMHSA, were awarded to Fairbanks Native Association and Tanana Chiefs Conference, Inc.

The grants announced this week are in addition to the more than $1 billion announced last week for opioid-specific grants for states to address the crisis affecting the country. To learn more about HHS’s recent actions to combat the opioid overdose epidemic visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/09/19/hhs-awards-over-1-billion-combat-opioid-crisis.html.

Under President Donald J. Trump, in April 2017, HHS unveiled a five-point Opioid Strategy. The Strategy has prioritized efforts in five areas: 1) Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services, including medication-assisted treatment; 2) Promoting the targeted availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; 3) Strengthening public health data reporting and collection; 4) Supporting cutting-edge research on addiction and pain and 5) Advancing the practice of pain management. Over fiscal years 2017 and 2018, HHS will have invested  over $4 billion in opioid-specific funding, including funds to state and local governments as well as tribal, public, and nonprofit organizations to support treatment and recovery services, target availability of overdose-reversing drugs, train first responders, and more.

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