The NCSL Blog


By Margaret Wile

Photo of pillsState policymakers are all too aware of the opioid crisis that has scourged the U.S. Approximately 52,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2015—and 63 percent of those deaths involved an opioid, both illicit opioids and misused prescription opioids.

As the opioid crisis continues to challenge for states, several new federal funding streams have emerged to help to bolster state efforts.

Recently, $485 million in total grant funds were awarded to all 50 states by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grants are the first of two rounds of funding provided by the federal 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 and are intended to “increase access to treatment, reduce unmet need, and reduce overdose related deaths.”

As part of this funding, HHS Secretary Tom Price wrote a letter to governors asking them to identify best practices within their state.

In his letter, Price writes that the first round of funding was given to states for immediate assistance, and the second round of funding will go for programs that are “most clinically sound, effective and efficient.” He will also seek guidance from states to “identify the best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that produce measurable results.”

Price has made one thing clear—learning from what is working in states and sharing best practices will be paramount to curbing this epidemic.

In addition to this new pot of money, states also may tap the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant, a federal formula grant to state alcohol and drug authorities. The SAPT funding totaled $1.85 billion in 2016, with approximately $371 million of that set aside in fiscal year 2017 for primary prevention services. The Trump administration’s budget, which  was released earlier this week, proposed level funding for the SAPT block grant for fiscal year 2018.

In another effort to help states in their efforts to curb opioid misuse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding 44 states and the District of Columbia with more than $70 million that Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2016. The money will bolster state efforts with data-based approaches to preventing prescription drug overdose, and enhancing state surveillance of opioid-involved morbidity and mortality, among other strategies. 

NCSL tracks state actions to combat the opioid epidemic through collaboration among the Health, Criminal Justice and Children and Families programs. This ongoing collaboration is available to provide technical assistance and maintains a number of resources detailing state efforts.

For more from NCSL about how states are addressing the opioid epidemic, visit NCSL’s Substance Abuse and Child Welfare Resources page, Injury Prevention Legislation Database, Drug Crime Policy page or NCSL’s blog, written earlier this year about state and federal efforts to combat the epidemic.

Margaret Wile is a policy associate in the Health Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.