Decreasing health disparities through collaboration


Community health centers (CHCs) are leading the statewide effort to respond to the opioid epidemic.  Since 2016, they have almost doubled the number of providers possessing an x-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid dependency, as well as the number of patients receiving Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).  This has enabled health centers to continue to be responsive to their community’s proliferating need for expanded substance abuse services.

Congress is bolstering the work of community health centers by providing additional funding for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and prevention to states, localities, and health centers.  Some of these additional funding opportunities are:

  • The Health Resources and Services Authority (HRSA) announced $350 million for the Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services. This supplemental funding will support health center’s ability to expand services for SUD and integrated mental health services. HRSA funding to health centers is not restricted to MAT and may be used for general SUD services to address the community’s defined need.
  • HRSA accepted applications for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program- Planning (RCORP). These funds will be distributed to rural communities to support treatment and prevention of SUDs in high risk, rural counties. In California, only two counties have qualified for support from this program (Lake and Plumas).
  • The state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) SUD Division has applied for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response (SOR) grants. In California, the original SOR grants were used to develop the California Hub and Spokes system (H&SS).  The additional funding will likely be used to bolster this program and improve certain areas of need.

The California Primary Care Association (CPCA) will provide additional information on opportunities to receive funding and support for the growing CHC work in this space.  Californians continue to struggle with many different substances, and most of the funding made available can be tailored by states and does not necessarily need to address the opioid epidemic. CHCs can use these funds to address the greatest need in your community.   

With opioids receiving a lot of press coverage, we’ve seen major changes in the 2017 data trends in California that speaks to the success of our statewide opioid strategy.  California dropped overall prescribing by 40 percent and high-dose prescribing by 50 percent since the peak in 2010.  Buprenorphine prescribing is trending up, but according to county snapshots, not enough to meet the demand of those with substance use disorders. Some say that the availability of illegally made fentanyl is shifting the epidemic from prescriptions to street drugs.  In order to address this trend, CHCs will need to remain focused on increasing our work in this space. 

CPCA continues to actively monitor these programs and work with our partners at both the state and federal level to ensure that these funds continue to bolster the work of health centers and improve the overall behavioral health delivery system to better serve health center patients and communities.