Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The Trump administration is issuing $1 billion in grants to states to provide treatment for opioid addiction, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday.
The funding was expected to go to state agencies and community health centers to treat and prevent addiction, and gather data on the crisis. Azar announced the grants in an op-ed published in USA Today.
"HHS is taking a number of new, unprecedented steps to empower local communities in their fight. These are part of HHS's comprehensive strategy for the crisis, which is grounded in the best science and evidence we have," he wrote.
The grants include provisions to promote the use of medication-assisted treatment, including overdose reversal drug naloxone. Azar said doctors and scientists consider such treatments the "gold standard" for opioid addiction, citing a 264 percent increase in prescribing of naloxone since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
HHS also is pushing telemedicine -- the remote treatment of patients using the Internet -- as a method for treating addiction.
Trump declared a national public health emergency over the opioid crisis in October 2017, calling it the "worst drug crisis in American history."
"For too long we have allowed drugs to ravage american homes, citites and towns," he said. "We owe it to our children and to our country to do everything in our power to address this national shame and human tragedy."
Some 72,000 people died of drug overdose in 2017, up from an estimated 64,000 in 2016.
On Monday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a sweeping bipartisan bill to fight the crisis, three months after the House passed similar legislation. The Senate version of the bill includes more than 70 provisions to treat and conduct research on opioid addiction.