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Feds move to curb overdose deaths

The federal government wants to curb the number of deaths from opioid drug overdoses. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hopes to make in-roads by funding intervention and prevention.

HHS Secretary Silvia Burwell recently announced initiatives that target heroin and opioid deaths and dependence across the country. $133 million has been allocated to programs for treatment and education.

Chris Jones, director of science policy at HHS, says much of the education about opioids needs to be directed at medical professionals.

“Where we look at prescribing practices, which is the primary driver of the problem overall so if you’re improving prescribing practices, increasing access to medication assisted treatment for people who have opioid-use disorders, which high risk population for overdose, and then expanding the use of Naloxone, so Naloxone was the critical component of that initiative,” says Jones.

Jones says part of the approach is increasing funding to get the overdose antidote, Naloxone, into more communities.

“There appears to be a gap around Naloxone in more rural areas but we also know that rural areas have been some of the hardest hits with respect to overdose burden,” says Jones.

HHS reports recent changes in New York state have shown a reduction in the number of patients getting painkillers from multiple doctors.