States make progress on tackling the opioid crisis by using federal grants

By George T. Mathew, M.D.

States have had a long history of trying to address the opioid epidemic. Today, with vital support from federal grants, many states are tapping into much-needed assistance to combat a crisis that has grown out of control.

Some grant funding is focused on analytics, identifying areas of need, improving data collection, addressing how best to change behaviors, and evaluating outcomes. Grants made available through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) include the Prevention for States (PfS) program, which seeks to enhance and maximize state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to improve use of and access to the programs, and enhance data availability, as well as to evaluate prescribing patterns.

In September 2017, the CDC announced 28.6 million in additional funding to 44 states and the District of Columbia to support their programs to tackle opioid overdoses. This includes a program that will use data analytics to help the PDMP registries address fraud, waste and abuse, as well as find those doctors who overprescribe, known as pill mills; a Data-Driven Prevention Initiative (DDPI) to improve data collection and analysis on opioid use, abuse and overdose, as well as figure out how to change the behaviors that lead to opioid abuse and to work with communities on building prevention programs; and the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) program, which seeks to speed up reporting of nonfatal opioid overdoses using surveillance of emergency departments and emergency medicine services, as well as improving the reporting of fatal opioid overdoses.

Separately, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is awarding up to $970 million (through State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis grants) to states to provide services to address opioid use disorder (OUD) during 2017 and 2018 (approximately $485 million has already been awarded). In addition, SAMHSA has funded projects in nine states with the objective of integrating PDMP reports into health information technologies, such as health information exchanges, electronic health records (EHRs) and pharmacy dispensing software (PDS) systems.

Other grants have been provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, behavioral interventions to prevent OUD and development of medications to prevent OUD.

Measuring outcomes

The results are beginning to trickle in: States such as Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are starting to pull together overdose data from emergency room visits, prescription data, corrections and healthcare facilities in multiple ways. This data is being used in a number of ways: from metrics to support the delivery of OUD services, to predictive modeling and hot spotting to determine problem areas and optimal placement of OUD centers. The state of Ohio, through its Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT), has expanded OUD services delivery, from addiction treatment all the way to coverage of naloxone for emergency services.

West Virginia has invested heavily in expanding access to Naloxone. The first step was to make it easier for authorized health care providers to write prescriptions for first responders, individuals at high risk, and family members or caregivers. Next, in 2016, a bill was passed to allow pharmacists to dispense an opioid agonist without a prescription.

Nevertheless, the problems states face in tackling the opioid epidemic are immense. It is estimated that more than 1.7 million people in the United States have a prescription opioid addiction, and Medicaid covers 30 percent of those patients, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Since funding is limited, states must evaluate currently available grants, understand what those grants are designed to achieve, and consider how best to use them to shore up their resources.

Learn more about the opioid crisis and how the federal government and the states are trying to tackle it by downloading the paper: How data and analytics can help states fight the opioid crisisFighting the Opioid Crisis with Data, Analytics and Waivers – A Coordinated Approach.

Visit DXC booth 1617 at HIMSS18.

George Mathew, M.D. is the Chief Medical Officer for the North American Healthcare organization for DXC. In this role, he serves as the clinical expert and healthcare thought leader to our healthcare clients in transforming the healthcare marketplace. Dr. Mathew graduated from Boston University School of Medicine and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Greenwich Hospital/Yale University in Connecticut.



Battling the opioid epidemic with knowledge, commitment and advanced analytics


  1. […] States make progress on tackling the opioid crisis by using federal grants […]


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