The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Federal budget deal includes $4.6 billion to combat opioid epidemic


CHERRY HILL, N.J. — The federal government will spend a record $4.6 billion this year to fight the nation’s deepening opioid crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016.

But some advocates say the funding included in the spending plan President Trump signed Friday is not nearly enough to establish the kind of treatment system needed to reverse the crisis. A White House report last fall said the overdose epidemic cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion in 2015.

Former congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), who served on Trump’s opioid commission last year, said there are clear solutions but Congress must devote more money to them.

“We still have lacked the insight that this is a crisis, a cataclysmic crisis,” he said.

By comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the United States is spending more than $7 billion annually on discretionary domestic funding on AIDS, an epidemic with a death toll that peaked in 1995 at 43,000.

States also have begun putting money toward the opioid epidemic. The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) estimates that the state is spending $1 billion a year to address the crisis. Last year, New Jersey allocated $200 million to opioid programs, and the budget proposal in Minnesota calls for $12 million in the coming fiscal year.

A spokesman for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who also served on Trump’s panel, said the government must do more.

“Governor Baker encourages members of Congress to work together on a plan forward to fully fund the bipartisan recommendations,” spokesman Brendan Moss said.

The commission’s chairman, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), declined through a spokesman to comment.

The opioid allocation is part of the $1.3 trillion budget appropriation Trump signed Friday. In a budget deal full of compromises, this was one element both parties heralded.

The budgeted amount is about three times as much as the government is currently spending to address the epidemic, not counting treatment money that flows through Medicaid and Medicare.

— Associated Press