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Shaheen, Hassan look to bring more federal money to N.H. for opioid crisis

New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would increase federal funding to states such as New Hampshire that are severely impacted by the drug crisis.

The measure, known as the Targeted Opioid Formula Act, would prioritize grants from Washington to states hardest-hit by the heroin and opioid epidemic. The legislation was co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.

The Granite State ranks second in the country, behind West Virginia, in the number of opioid-related deaths per capita. And it ranks first in the nation for fentanyl-related deaths relative to its population.

West Virginia’s two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelly Moore Capito, joined Shaheen and Hassan in co-sponsoring the bill.

The measure would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known by its acronym SAMHSA, to factor in a state’s mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services when allocating targeted grants. The current process allocates the grants based on the raw number of people in each state with substance abuse disorders, rather than number of people per capita.

The grants come from the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law late last year by then-President Barack Obama. The current funding formula was established by the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees SAMHSA.

“Federal resources should be appropriately prioritized for communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire continues to set overdose death records, yet is not getting a proportional amount of federal support.

“Additional funding is immediately needed to give first responders a helping hand and provide more treatment for those suffering from substance use disorders,” she added.

Hassan emphasized the inadequate distribution of funding the bill aims to remedy.

“With people dying every day in New Hampshire from the devastating fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic, it is essential that the federal government provide adequate resources to match the urgency and severity of this crisis in the hardest-hit states across the United States.”

She added that the bill is critical to changing the formula for allocating funds “so that states most impacted by this epidemic receive the resources they need to combat this crisis and help save lives.”

Last month both senators criticized the administration of President Donald Trump for failing to change the federal funding formula to give preference to states hit hardest by the drug crisis. The administration announced two weeks ago that the current formula would not be altered.

Later that same day, Democrat Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District teamed up with Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins of West Virginia to introduce the Federal Opioid Response Fairness Act, which also aims to change the funding formula to favor states most affected by the opioid epidemic.