Georgia gets help to battle pain pill, heroin epidemic

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Prescription drug abuse has declined as the state has cracked down on pill mills, official say.

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Georgia has been awarded nearly $800,000 in federal funding to help combat the abuse of prescription opioids and heroin — a problem that has reached epidemic proportions across America.

The money will go to support two health centers in Albany and Augusta to expand delivery of substance abuse services, especially to underserved populations, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released today.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States today,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and integrating these services in health centers bolsters nationwide efforts to curb opioid misuse and abuse, supports approximately 124,000 new patients accessing substance use treatment for recovery and helps save lives.”

Nationwide, roughly 4.5 million people abused pain relievers in 2013 and nearly 300,000 were heroin users, federal data shows. Meanwhile, overdose deaths from prescription pain medication nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2013. Deaths related to heroin also increased 39 percent over that time.

In all, the federal government is awarding $94 million to health centers across the U.S. to improve access to substance abuse treatment. That’s expected to help hire about 800 providers and treat nearly 124,000 new patients.

“Health centers treat some of the most at risk patients in the country,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae. “These awards position health centers to be at the forefront of the fight against opioid abuse in underserved communities.”

 


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