PolitiFact: New budget funds aren’t whole story on opioid epidemic

Tom Price, secretary for Health and Human Services, and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, reiterated Trump's commitment to end the opioid crisis when they visited New Hampshire this month a week after it was announced that the administration planned to cut the Office of National Drug Control Policy's budget by $364 million, about 95 percent. The proposed cut in Trump's final budget, it turned out, was not so steep.

New Hampshire has been one of the states hardest hit by drug deaths. Asked about the proposed cuts, Price said, “I think if you look at the entire federal government and the president’s commitment to this challenge, you’ll see that there are actually hundreds of millions of dollars increase on this issue.”

When we contacted the Department of Health and Human Services to get a numbers breakdown a spokesman pointed to the congressional omnibus bill, the temporary spending measure to keep the government running that was passed in early May.

“At minimum, the Omnibus provides $213 million in new funding to combat the opioid epidemic across the federal government,” Alleigh Marre said. “With all that in mind, the Secretary’s comment that there is a ‘hundreds of millions of dollars increase’ across the federal government, is true.”

However, that number includes $500 million in 21st Century Cures Act grant money, which was passed by Congress under President Obama, before Trump was elected, and doesn't account for the president's proposed federal budget.

It also includes $150 million in the 2017 omnibus that covers money for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Health Resources and Services Administration to fight addiction.

Marre also highlighted $12.5 million in funding for four new heroin enforcement groups within the DEA and $50 million to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to fund opioid and substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.

Beyond these budget increases, however, some experts on addiction and recovery say that other Trump proposals won’t help ease the opioid crisis and could make it worse.

His budget asks for almost $400 million in cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which could result in fewer mental health block grants distributed.

And the recently proposed Republican health care bill, which Trump supports, proposes big cuts to Medicaid. The House bill calls for $800 billion of cuts to Medicaid in 10 years, on top of the $610 billion cut to Medicaid benefits sought in Trump's budget. That means Medicaid spending could be cut by 45 percent in 10 years.

This has serious implications for people who get health insurance through expanded Medicaid, many of whom get mental health treatment and substance abuse coverage paid.

That has many treatment advocates in New Hampshire worried.

“We need a system of response that includes access to treatment, recovery, and also, we have to address the supply side through supporting law enforcement in their work. I’m not seeing evidence that that’s actually happening,” said Linda Saunders Paquette, director of treatment advocacy organization New Futures.

It’s worth noting that the president’s budget is just a blueprint; members of Congress have said they are unlikely to approve it without changes.

Our Ruling

Price said the government is already spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" more to fight the opioid crisis. More funding was approved in the recent omnibus bill to keep the government running, but other policies Trump is seeking to pursue, notably cuts to Medicaid, could wipe out that increase and then some. We rate the claim Half True.


“I think if you look at the entire federal government and the president’s commitment to (fighting opioid addiction), you’ll see that there are actually hundreds of millions of dollars increase on this issue.”

— Tom Price on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in press conference about opioid addiction