Mayors Ask for More Federal Funding for Opioids (SUPPORT Act)

Mayors from Gary, Indiana, Huntington, West Virginia, and Knoxville, Tennessee, ask lawmakers for more federal funding for opioids at the local level. Get the new NLC/NACO whitepaper on best practices to address the crisis.

WASHINGTON -- A National League of Cities (NLC) briefing on Capitol Hill featured three mayors to describe the steps their cities are taking to combat the opioid epidemic and the partnership they need from federal leaders.

Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson, NLC’s first vice president, was joined by Huntington, West Virginia, Mayor Steve Williams and Knoxville, Tennessee, Mayor Madeline Rogero at the briefing, which was opened by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

The opioid crisis will not go away on its own. As elected officials, we must take action so that our cities can continue to be the foundation of our country, and that action must come from a coordinated effort involving every level of government” said Freeman-Wilson. “If funding continues to stall at the state and federal levels instead of being fully dispersed to America’s most effected cities, we are just treading water.”

The briefing followed Congressional passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. The mayors said the legislation did not go far enough.

While local governments have been developing programs to address substance abuse disorders in their communities, many cities and local elected officials feel that they alone lack the tools and resources to produce a long-lasting response, according to a prepared statement from NLC.

Funding Details & New Federal Grants

According to GovTrack, SUPPORT -- waiting to be signed by President Donald Trump -- authorizes "grants to state and local agencies for the establishment or operation of public health laboratories to detect fentanyl, its analogues and other synthetic opioids (H.R. 5580)."

SUPPORT largely makes changes and poses requirements through Medicaid and Medicare and increases access to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Medicare through bundled payments made to Opioid Treatment Programs (Section 2 of H.R. 5776). It also enables nurse specialties to prescribe buprenorphine while making the ability permanent for physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently announced $155 million to states and four U.S. territories "to advance the understanding of the opioid overdose epidemic and to scale-up prevention and response activities, including improving the timeliness and quality of surveillance data."

CDC has opened an additional $27 million in potential emergency response grants to public health departments with applications due November 30, 2018.

Learn more about grant funding related to opioids.

Connecting the Dots

“As mayors, we are at the center of the opioid epidemic and we play a critical role in connecting the dots between community services and those who need help,” said Williams. “In Huntington, we have developed a holistic approach that brings all of our community’s resources to the table. However, this approach also requires partnerships at the federal level. That means increasing federal funding to combat this scourge and cutting a clearer path for cities to access that funding.”

In the Huntington region, comprehensive harm reduction partnerships are working with various private and other grant partners to increase access to treatment, counseling and substance abuse addiction prevention.

The city of Gary filed filed a complaint in Lake Superior Court in January 2018 naming more than 25 opioid businesses to recover damages for overuse of public resources, according to the Times of Northwest Indiana. The Times reported that the Indiana State Department of Health found hospitals saw a 60-percent increase in non-fatal drug overdoses from 2011 to 2015, with deadly overdoses rising by an average of 3.5 percent each year.

Knoxville is one of 13 partners with the Drug Enforcement Agency for its 360 Strategy program coordinating law enforcement actions and community outreach following them in order to reduce further incidence.

The impact of the opioid epidemic cannot be understated,” said Rogero. “Our federal, state and local leaders must work alongside local prevention organizations to address substance misuse. Cities and local communities are on the front line and must remain hopeful and innovative.”

NLC convenes state and local governments to advance strategies that mitigate this crisis. This year's report, developed with National Association of Counties, can be reviewed and downloaded below.

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