CDC to fund effort against prescription drug overdose epidemic

Opioid overdoses in the United States have quadrupled since 1999.
By Stephen Feller   |   Sept. 4, 2015 at 5:52 PM
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ATLANTA, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today a $20 million program to work with 16 states in an effort to curtail the epidemic of opioid overdoses.

Overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, according to the CDC, with more than 16,000 people dying of opioid overdoses in 2013 alone. Additionally, more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013, a number that tripled since 2010.

"The prescription drug overdose epidemic is tragic and costly, but can be reversed," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a press release. "Because we can protect people from becoming addicted to opioids, we must take fast action now, with real-time tracking programs, safer prescribing practices, and rapid response. Reversing this epidemic will require programs in all 50 states."

The CDC will start the program this year in 16 states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The $20 million is expected to be focused on enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs, expanding education and prevention efforts in communities, working with doctors and health systems to help them make better decisions for patients, and to better understand the link between opioid prescription drug abuse and rising heroin abuse.

Over the next four years, CDC will annually award states between $750,000 and $1 million each year. President Obama's 2016 budget proposal includes a request for funding to expand the program into all 50 states and launch a national offensive against the epidemic.

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