The Biden Administration recently announced $450 million in spending to bolster drug abuse prevention and treatment amid a national epidemic of overdose deaths. Some of the grants will focus on youth and parents, particularly those in rural communities who often lack local access to the treatment they need.
In 2021, more than 70,000 Americans died from opioid overdose, with fentanyl causing most of those. In a press release announcing the funding, the administration noted that overdose deaths have plateaued for 13 straight months after rapidly increasing from 2019 to 2021.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building on this progress and doubling down on all efforts to reduce drug overdose deaths, save lives, and make our communities safer,” the press release states.
Drug use also contributes heavily to child welfare and juvenile justice involvement. Drug or alcohol use was a noted factor in 39% of cases in which children were removed from their parents in 2020, according to federal data — and that trendline has been steadily increasing for decades.
In terms of juvenile justice involvement, roughly 10% of arrests among minors in 2020 were related to drug use, not including alcohol. A 2023 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that roughly 60% of youth in juvenile detention meet the criteria for a substance use disorder diagnosis.
A range of projects will get an influx of cash from this new initiative. Rural communities in 39 states will get $80 million to create and grow treatment sites and boost distribution of overdose-reversal medications. This funding will also go toward expanding access to behavioral health interventions for young people and caring for infants who have been exposed to opioids or are at risk.
Rural communities have long lacked sufficient resources for those struggling with drug use disorders. In addition to leading to worsening conditions, for parents with child welfare involvement this can serve as an intractable barrier to meeting the terms required to regain custody of their children.
The Drug-Free Communities Support Program, a nationwide effort to mobilize communities to prevent and reduce substance use among youth, will get roughly $20.5 million to support 164 new community programs. This builds upon 751 grants doled out earlier this year, totaling $93.8 million put toward this locally driven, evidence-based initiative for fiscal year 2023.
A 2021 evaluation found that the Drug-Free Communities Support Programs mobilized more than 30,000 community members on strategies to reduce youth substance use. Local programs reported decreases in high-school-aged teens abusing prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.
The Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers program will receive $1.7 million. These centers provide medication-assisted treatment — providing methadone, naloxone and buprenorphine — for opioid use disorder. Required to provide “full spectrum” treatment, the centers also offer counseling, residential rehab, recovery housing and workforce development services.
The largest chunk of funding, $279 million, will consist of Overdose Data to Action grants to states and local jurisdictions. This is the first time that federal funding to prevent overdose deaths will extend beyond the state level and go directly to funding services in cities, towns and counties. Both state and local recipients will focus on collecting and using data, as well as collaborating with people with lived experience and addressing health disparities.
The idea behind local funding is that the proximity will provide better insight into communities’ needs and allow for more nimble deployment of the most effective harm-reduction strategies.