On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced an HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy. That strategy includes a four-pronged effort around primary prevention, evidence-based treatment, harm reduction and recovery support.

Each category of the strategy outlines what HHS is doing in the respective areas. Under prevention one of the efforts focus on reducing the misuse or over prescribing of medications. Much of the opioid abuse of the past two decades can be traced back to a focused effort by some pharmaceuticals giants to promote the use of opiods such as oxycodone.

Under evidence-based treatment HHS highlights research on new treatment and strategies to improve retention in care, broadening access to evidence-based care, increased uptake of evidence-based treatment delivery that improves engagement retention in care, and promotion of evidence-based integrated care for people with co-occurring conditions across lines of service and care settings.

Evidence-based treatment efforts include the use of 1115 Medicaid waivers and promoting the “Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) model. This model involves $126 million for 8 models that started in late 2018 and 2019. Each model has three goals: early identification and treatment of children with multiple physical, behavioral, or other health-related needs and risk factors through population-level engagement in assessment and risk stratification; integration involving coordination and case management across physical health, behavioral health, and other local service providers for children with health needs impacting their functioning in their schools, communities, and homes; and the development of state specific alternate payment models  to align payment with care quality and supporting accountability for improved child health outcomes and long-term health system sustainability.

In the announcement Becerra said “We’re changing the way we address overdoses. Our new strategy focuses on people — putting the very individuals who have struggled with addiction in positions of power. And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can address what so many people have seen in recent years: a rise in overdoses that can risk a person’s life – and affect their entire family.”

The March 2021, American Rescue Plan, signed by the President in March, appropriated over $2 billion to enable the Department’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand access to vital services that would support strategy implementation. The pending proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget for HHS could include drug-related programs and initiatives totals $11.2 billion across HHS. That would be $3.9 billion more than in FY 2021. Read an issue brief here: https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/overdose-prevention-strategy.