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Federal legislation would require states to fund addiction recovery programs

A drug seizure, including fentanyl.
A drug seizure, including fentanyl.(NBC12)
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 8:31 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 8:36 AM EDT
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As drug overdose deaths surge in Virginia and across the country, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico, has introduced a bipartisan bill that would create permanent federal funding for addiction recovery programs.

The legislation would require states to spend at least 10 percent of the money they receive from the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant on recovery programs with a record of success and peer support specialist programs to “help Virginians stay sober.”

“By establishing a 10 percent set-aside, this bill would provide much-needed assistance to recovery-focused community centers, homes, schools and ministries that are already doing the hard work of helping those struggling with addiction and assisting them as they navigate towards recovery,” Spanberger said. “We can provide hope, end the stigma and make peer recovery services accessible — but we need to demonstrate the federal willpower necessary to sustain recovery programs for the long haul.”

In the most recent fiscal year, Congress provided $1.8 billion for the program, Spanberger’s office said. Virginia’s allotment was $41 million. For next, the House of Representatives has proposed boosting the total appropriation to $2.8 billion. The block grant accounts for approximately 15 percent of total state substance abuse agency funding.

This legislation comes as VDH data shows a 41.9 percent increase in overdose deaths in Virginia, from 1,627 in 2019 to 2,308 in 2020. However, Virginia Commonwealth University medical professionals say state leaders must look beyond legislation to reach a concrete, long-term solution to the opioid epidemic.

“One overdose death is a big deal, but all the other morbidity and mortality that can come from substance use in addition to that overdose death is not being captured by that data,” said Dr. Caitlin Martin, director of OB-GYN addiction services at the OB MOTIVATE Clinic, a program that treats women with substance abuse issues. Martin is also an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the VCU School of Medicine. “So for every overdose death that is identified, you think of all the other individuals and families that are being affected by addiction that fortunately are not represented in that overdose death,” she said.

While some substance abuse experts suspect the spike in overdose deaths can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation that came with it, Martin and Dr. Brandon Wills, another VCU physician, said that there are multiple competing factors that are responsible for the surge.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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