HHS launches plan to prevent overdoses

More than 840,000 people died from overdoses between 1999 and 2019

Health and Human Services announced a drug overdose prevention plan that it says will increase access to health care for those with substance disorders.

The four-part plan focuses on evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support for both drug users and their families.

According to HHS, more than 840,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. between 1999 and 2019. Last year, 93,000 people died during the COVID-19 pandemic when overdose fatalities increased. HHS Director Xavier Becerra said that confronting overdose deaths is a top priority for the department.

Funding will be focused on researching testing strips that detect fentanyl that is sometimes hidden in drugs, supporting syringe distribution and exchange services, and boosting access to overdose reversal treatments, such as naloxone. The department will also prioritize supporting the advancement of pain management treatments and reducing inappropriate prescriptions that increase the chances of misuse. There will also be increased support for those who currently have substance use disorders through improved access to treatment and recovery services.

“We’re changing the way we address overdoses,” Becerra said in a statement. “Our new strategy focuses on people — putting the very individuals who have struggled with addiction in positions of power.”

In addition, the CDC also announced an education campaign focused on reducing overdose deaths. The campaign will target 18- to 34-year-olds and will teach about the risks of fentanyl and of mixing drugs as well as the benefits of naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses.

“This critical information can help all of us save a life from overdose and support people who use drugs in treatment and recovery,” said Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of CDC, in a statement.