Federal Government Taking Steps in Opioid Crisis
Alarmed by a deadly new twist in the nation's drug addiction crisis, the government will allow states to use federal money earmarked for the opioid epidemic to help growing numbers of people struggling with meth and cocaine.
The little-noticed change is buried in a massive spending bill passed by Congress late last year. Pressed by constituents and state officials, lawmakers of both parties and the Trump administration agreed to broaden the scope of a $1.5 billion grant program previously restricted to the opioid crisis. Starting this year states can also use those federal dollars to counter addiction to “stimulants,” a term the government uses for methamphetamine and cocaine.
“Meth and cocaine are making a comeback and they are more potent than they were during the last wave,” said Mark Stringer, director of Missouri's Department of Mental Health. He oversees the state's efforts to prevent addiction, get drug-dependent people into treatment, and support them in recovery. “Where meth is much more prevalent than opioids, this will be a game-changer.”
About 68,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2018, with opioids involved in about two-thirds of the cases. Opioids are a drug class that includes fentanyl, heroin, certain prescription painkillers, and various chemical combinations concocted for street sales. But the national numbers also hide dramatic differences in the deadliest drugs across the land.