Durbin: HHS Awarded Clay County $100,000 Federal Grant as Part of Pilot Program to Reduce Opiod Overdose in Rural Communities

Senator commends announcement that HHS will also be expanding access to medication-assisted therapies for opioid addiction

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that Clay County Hospital in Flora, Illinois has been awarded a $100,000 grant through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The grant is made available through a new pilot program that was created to support rural communities in reducing opioid overdose and death. Clay County Hospital and its local partners will use this funding to collaborate on strategies to reduce opioid abuse and its deadly consequences, including increasing the availability and use of naloxone.


As part of this announcement, HHS will also be taking steps to revise the regulations that cap the number of patients a physician can treat with medication-assisted therapies, including buprenorphine. Despite studies showing medication-assisted therapies to be highly effective, there is significant under-treatment due to federal limitations. In 2012, of the 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids, fewer than one million received medication-assisted therapy.


“Naloxone is sometimes called the “Lazarus drug” because of its ability to reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose. And yet, law enforcement officers in only a few Illinois counties carry it. Medication-assisted therapies offer proven treatments for opioid disorders. And yet, there are restrictions on the number of patients who can access those therapies,” Durbin said. “With heroin and opioid use on the rise, why wouldn’t we do everything we could to give healthcare providers access to life-saving drugs and therapies? I am glad to see the Department of Health and Human Services answering that call by expanding the use of naloxone and medication-assisted therapies, while also providing additional training and resources to the first-responders who are on the frontline of this crisis.” 


Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, if it is administered in a timely way. Naloxone has no side effects or potential for abuse, and is widely recognized as an important tool to help prevent drug overdose deaths. However, many communities struggle to get naloxone to those on the front lines who need it most. Durbin has been outspoken in his efforts expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives.


Throughout August, Durbin met with local advocates, law enforcement officials, health professionals, and people affected by heroin and opioid addiction throughout Illinois to discuss ways to combat the growing problem.


Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than doubled, and in most states the number now exceeds the number of traffic-related deaths. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of preventable injury death, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths each year, with most involving either prescription opioids or heroin. In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – an increase of nearly 29 percent since 2010.


Earlier this month, Durbin announced that the Illinois Department of Human Services received $917,661 in federal funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program. The new program provide states like Illinois with resources and support to advance comprehensive state-level interventions for preventing prescription drug overuse, misuse, abuse, and overdose. More information about the program is available here.


In June, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act, which would expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives. The Overdose Prevention Act aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone, supporting overdose prevention programs, enhancing surveillance of overdose occurrences, and establishing a coordinated federal plan of action to address the epidemic.


In May, Durbin cosponsored the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act). The bill would not only lift the cap on the number of patients physicians can treat using medication assisted therapies, but it would also enable nurse practitioners and physicians assistants trained in addiction medicine to treat patients with medication assisted therapies.


In March, Durbin introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) program, which provides grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs. Prescription narcotic drugs are the number one cause of overdoses in the United States. The program was originally signed into law in 2005.


In December, Durbin and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) led a group of twenty-one Senators in calling on HHS to prioritize programs that reduce heroin and other opioid overdose deaths in its national strategy to curb prescription drug abuse. Both Senators have been active in highlighting the need for expanded access to overdose education, naloxone distribution, and access to substance abuse treatment services and other follow-up care.