Following Constructive White House Meeting, Shaheen & Hassan Outline Changes Needed to Opioid Funding Formula in Letter to Administration

**Opioid Commission Chairman Chris Christie and HHS Secretary Tom Price Have Committed to Reviewing the 21st Century Cures Act Formula Ahead of Distribution Next Year**

April 26, 2017

(Washington, DC)—Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price outlining changes needed to the formula for opioid funding provided through the 21st Century Cures Act. The formula used for funding in Fiscal Year 2017 did not provide adequate resources for states like New Hampshire hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. The senator’s letter follows a meeting they attended at the White House yesterday with Governor Chris Christie, the Chairman of the President’s recently-established commission tasked with recommending policies to address the opioid crisis. During their meeting, Chairman Christie acknowledged that there are problems with the current funding formula and that the Commission would revisit the formula and consider reforms. Secretary Price has also stated that his agency will review this formula ahead of distribution next year.  

The senators’ letter reads in part, “As President Trump recognized on the campaign trail numerous times, our state of New Hampshire has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic … As you know, Congress intended the resources included in the Cures bill to target the states with the greatest needs.” The letter continues, “The most recent formula, which used mortality numbers instead of per capita death rates for determining funding allocations, does not adequately take the prevalence of the problem into account and favors larger states over smaller states because of the heavy weight that population plays in the formulaic equation … As you work to determine the allocation formula for the next fiscal year, we stand ready to work with you to ensure that congressional intent is fulfilled and that New Hampshire and other states so dramatically affected receive the resources they need.”

The letter can be read in full below:

Dear Secretary Price:

We are writing to you today regarding opioid funding provided by last year’s 21st Century Cures Act (Cures) in the form of the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants.  As President Trump recognized on the campaign trail numerous times, our state of New Hampshire has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic.  We have fought for resources to help our state combat this problem and support our health care providers and first responders in preventing and treating opioid misuse.  As such, we were strong supporters of the funding that passed last year as a first step to ensuring the federal government is an active partner in this effort.  We were disappointed that the formula for this year’s funding does not adequately consider a state’s need, so we were pleased to see your commitment to revisiting how funding will flow for the second year and would like to work with you to ensure that smaller states like ours receive funding commensurate with need.

As you know, Congress intended the resources included in the Cures bill to target the states with the greatest needs.  We believe that a critical component of that effort requires an examination of the epidemic’s impact in different areas of the country in terms of per capita death rate as opposed to total deaths.  The most recent formula, which used mortality numbers instead of per capita death rates for determining funding allocations, does not adequately take the prevalence of the problem into account and favors larger states over smaller states because of the heavy weight that population plays in the formulaic equation.  As a result, only one of the hardest-hit states is among the top recipients of the grants announced last week.  New Hampshire has the third-highest prevalence of death, but is only eligible for $3 million of the $500 million available for Fiscal Year 2017.  As you work to determine the allocation formula for the next fiscal year, we stand ready to work with you to ensure that congressional intent is fulfilled and that New Hampshire and other states so dramatically affected receive the resources they need.

Please let us know how can be of further assistance in this effort.

Sincerely,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Senator Maggie Hassan