The White House unveiled on Wednesday Findtreatment.gov, a website aimed at helping Americans locate substance abuse treatment more easily.
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The site includes customizable search options to empower users with greater access to providers and an easier way of selecting the right treatment from about 13,000 state-licensed facilities.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, helped spearhead the government’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, calling the site the “latest building block to treat the whole person suffering from substance abuse” during a call with reporters on Wednesday.
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The site modernizes a previously tough to navigate directory run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) with friendlier-to-use search criteria and tools allowing users to filter through treatment options based on location, type of treatment and payment method, as well as options designed to address the needs of youth, veterans and the LGBTQ community.
Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, and 36% of those deaths involved prescription opioids, according to a statement on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
The majority of the 2 million Americans suffering from opioid use never receive the treatment they need. “Finding access at the right time and location can in fact be lifesaving,” said Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, during the call. This new website “is not just about connecting but increasing quality and supply of treatment providers,” he added.
“Too often people will just type into a search bar, need treatment, and for years, if not decades, there has been an insufficient response to such a search,” Conway said.
The site’s design was based on over 300 user feedback responses and 60 long-form interviews with people in active recovery, their family members and medical providers.
Professionals in the field applauded the administration’s efforts.
Cliff Owen/AP, FILE
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, participates in a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.
“Any program that makes it easier for families and patients struggling with substance use problems to find the help they need would be a positive addition,” said Dr. Abigail Schlesinger, medical director of Ambulatory Integrated Behavioral Health at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.
“I think this is a step in the right direction, but again it’s just a server with better filters,” said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit psychiatry chief at Zucker Hillside Hospital of Glen Oaks, N.Y., to ABC News.
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Azar said that the administration is working towards making treatment that combines medication and counseling therapies, more accessible and affordable.
There is still a “substantial shortage of prescribers especially in rural states” for opioid use disorders, said Krakower. In addition, prescribers don’t have the extra waivers, clinics are understaffed, and doctors are apprehensive about prescribing medication for opioid dependence, he said.
“None of these online resources are meant to be a panacea to cure or find treatment, it’s just a start to help you find someone instead of googling and being misled by ads and promotions,” Krakower said.
Along with unveiling the website, the White House announced $1.8 billion in new grants to help combat the opioid crisis.
The website launch is the latest development in efforts to combat the opioid crisis. In a recent press release, the administration reported the first decline in 30 years of overdose deaths due to drugs, a nationwide decline of 5.1%, most notably falling off its peak in some states up to 24% and a 31% decrease in opioid prescriptions since January 2017.