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Requests for Proportional Distribution of Opioid Funding

While only 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, a disproportionate number of rural communities are struggling with prescription opioids and heroin abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rural Americans are more vulnerable to prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses, and the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in nonmetro counties is 45 percent higher than in metro counties.
Last year, the House and Senate authorized $1 billion in funding for the next 2 years to combat the opioid epidemic in the 21st Century Cures legislation. Right now, this funding is being allocated to the states based on the mortality rate and the size of each state. Lawmakers responsible for the legislation intended that money be distributed using a per-capita formula to account for the needs of smaller states impacted more heavily by the crisis. West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the country, but only received $5.8 million out of the $500 million allocated for this year. Second-ranked New Hampshire was given $3.1 million, and Kentucky, the third highest received about $11 million. Texas and California, though larger states with bigger populations, had proportionately some of the lowest overdose death rates in the country. Nevertheless, Texas received $27.3 million and California received $44.7 million.
We need proportional distribution of funding to ensure that the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic have an opportunity to recover. The current formula does not sufficiently consider the scope of the crisis and favors larger states because of the all too significant role that population plays in the equation.
This week, NRHA’s Government Affairs team wrote letters to President Donald Trump, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan asking them to support proportional distribution of funding to areas most impacted by the opioid crisis. We also wrote letters of support to Senators Joe Manchin, Shelley Moore Capito, Maggie Hassan, and Jeanne Shaheen in support of their proposed legislation, the Targeted Opioid Formula Act, which would direct HHS to distribute funding proportionately; a similar bill (the Federal Opioid Response Fairness Act), which NRHA also supports, was introduced in the House by Representatives Evan Jenkins and Ann Kuster.
We will continue to monitor these proposals and update the blog as we have more information.

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