Health officials push for federal funding to fight opioid crisis

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Members of a House committee questioned North Carolina health officials this week about what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to battling the country’s opioid crisis.

“Our success is clear but with your help, there is much more we can do,” Kody Kinsley with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said.

He testified Tuesday in front of members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sharing the state’s success in curbing the opioid crisis.

“The ‘North Carolina Opioid Action Plan’ is organized into three pillars: prevention, harm reduction and connections to care,” he explained.

Kinsley said four percent of North Carolina residents misuse prescription or illicit opioids. Thousands have died from overdoses. But in 2019, the number of overdose deaths dropped for the first time in five years.

Kinsley said it was federal funding that helped the state turn the tide.

“This investment has saved lives, transformed communities and has made the down payment on breaking the cycle on addiction, trauma and poverty in our state,” he said.

Kinsley credits cutting the supply of opioid prescriptions by twenty-four percent and expanding access to naloxone for the state’s decrease in overdose deaths. But he said to keep up the progress, federal funding must continue.

“Sustaining funding over long windows of time, or permanently, would allow states to ready systems for the next wave of the epidemic,” he added.

Kinsley said there is a lot of work left to do.

“We are digging out of this hole with a teaspoon,” he said. “We are proud of our progress, we have so much further to go.”

He said his state’s highest priority now is expanding treatment to the one million North Carolinians without health insurance.

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