The U.S. Senate has passed an appropriations bill that “takes aim at the next wave of the opioid crisis: drug-fueled infections like HIV and hepatitis that plague Kentucky,” reports Laura Ungar of the Louisville Courier Journal. “The bill contains $5 million for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve tracking, treatment and education efforts targeting HIV and hepatitis B and C, which can be spread by shooting up drugs. Overall, it provides more than $3 billion in opioid-related funding.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he pushed for the funding. “The CDC is directed to prioritize high-risk areas, including 54 counties in Kentucky,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. Ungar notes, “Those counties were among 220 across the nation that the CDC identified as most vulnerable to an HIV outbreak.”
The funding is in the appropriations bill for the Department for Health and Human Services. “Other appropriations bills will have funding for opioids as well,” McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said in an email. The bills will have to be reconciled with bills passed by the House.
The Senate would give an extra $500 million to the National Institutes of Health for research on opioid addiction and pain management; and an increase of $20 million, to $120 million, to the Health Resources and Services Administration for rural opioid response. “While the opioid epidemic has affected both urban and rural counties, the burden in rural areas is significantly higher,” the Senate report said. “Rural communities face a number of challenges in gaining access to healthcare in general, and substance abuse treatment in particular. CDC has found that drug-related deaths are 45 percent higher in rural communities, and that rural states are more likely to have higher rates of overdose deaths.”