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Hassan, Shaheen Call for Bipartisan Cooperation On Budgets to Address Heroin Crisis

(LACONIA, NH) -  New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) held a press conference today at the Belknap County Recovery Court in Laconia calling for bipartisan cooperation at the federal, state and local levels to tackle the crisis of heroin and opioid abuse in New Hampshire. They focused on the need to responsibly fund prevention and treatment programs in the federal and state budgets. Their call comes as Republicans in Washington have proposed drastic cuts to programs that would help address the heroin and opioid abuse crisis, while those in Concord have failed to offer a counter proposal to the Governor's compromise proposal that includes an additional $5.9 million to fight heroin and substance abuse.

“We must work together across party lines at the state, federal and local levels every day to combat the heroin and substance abuse crisis, which is having a devastating effect on all of our communities, our economic well-being and people from all walks of life,” Governor Hassan said. “I have presented a fiscally responsible, compromise budget proposal that includes $5.9 million in additional funds for prevention and treatment over the Committee of Conference budget, including the funding necessary to move forward with a drug court in Manchester. My compromise budget proposal would also ensure that the funding is available for our bipartisan health care expansion program if and when the legislature reauthorizes is it, which is the single most important step we can take to help individuals access treatment and to encourage providers to expand substance abuse programs in our state.”

“The crisis of heroin and opioid abuse is the most urgent public health challenge facing our state,” said Shaheen. “Responding to this crisis requires an investment in prevention, treatment and recovery programs that have proven to work. It’s imperative that we have bipartisan cooperation in Concord and Washington to make the resources available for programs tackling the heroin crisis. Today, I’m calling on my Republican colleagues in the Senate to begin negotiations on our federal budget and work with us to find the funds needed for programs to address this threat to the Granite State’s health and wellbeing.”

Governor Hassan and Senator Shaheen were joined by Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams, Judge James Carroll of the Laconia District Court, Senior Director for Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health for the Governor’s Office, Jack Wozmak, and Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau. The press conference took place at the New Hampshire Circuit Court District Division in Laconia, which hosts the Belknap County Recovery Court.

Last month, Governor Hassan presented a compromise budget proposal that would strengthen efforts to combat the heroin crisis, providing $5.9 million in additional funds over the Committee of Conference budget for substance abuse prevention and treatment. Following a recommendation by Senior Director for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Jack Wozmak, the compromise proposal also moves up extension of substance abuse benefits to the existing Medicaid population to January 2016, and provides additional funds to support other efforts, such as a drug court in the City of Manchester. It also includes funds for the legislature to collect data on the state’s bipartisan health care expansion program and ensures that funds are available to move forward if the program is reauthorized at a later date.

In the United States Senate, every Republican Senator voted for a budget that is going to result in severe cuts to federal substance abuse treatment programs.  Working under this austere budget, the Senate appropriations committee has proposed cutting funding for substance abuse treatment under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) by nearly $130 million.  That includes a $50 million cut to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, which is an important resource for New Hampshire programs. Senator Shaheen strongly opposed the Republican budget as well as the drastic cuts to programs important to New Hampshire that have been proposed as a result.