ICYMI: Shaheen Questions Top CDC Leadership on Agency’s Efforts to Address Meth Overdoses & PFAS in NH

May 20, 2021

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) questioned Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, on the agency’s continued efforts to address methamphetamine overdoses, as well as exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals in New Hampshire, during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about the CDC’s budget for fiscal year 2022. Shaheen is a senior member of the committee.

Shaheen raised the challenges posed by the increase of meth overdoses in New Hampshire with Director Walensky, which have soared in recent years. Shaheen sought information on what the agency is doing to improve treatment options for meth overdoses, which lack an effective and equivalent treatment akin to Narcan for opioid overdoses, and underscored the need for the agency to provide assistance for states hardest hit by the substance use disorder epidemic. Shaheen also urged Director Walensky to direct the CDC to again prioritize set-aside funding for State Opioid Response Grants funds which the Senator has successfully fought to secure, expand and provide flexibility for to help patients suffering from meth and cocaine dependency, in addition to opioids.

Shaheen also raised the CDC’s efforts to combat and remediate PFAS exposure impacting Seacoast communities, the Pease Air National Guard Base and families across New Hampshire. The Senator highlighted her provision included in government funding legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in December that provided $1 million for new grants from the CDC to develop education courses for physicians who care for patients with significant PFAS exposure. CDC Principal Deputy Director Schuchat also promised Shaheen more details on the status of the Pease Health Study, which Shaheen worked to establish, and studies investigating the connection between exposure to PFAS and severity of COVID-19 illness.

Shaheen’s questioning can be viewed in full here.

Shaheen has spearheaded legislation and funding to stem the opioid epidemic, including through her leadership on the pivotal Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. In government funding legislation signed into law in 2019, Shaheen included a key provision from the 2019 version of her legislation - Turn the Tide Act - to provide flexibility for treatment providers to use State Opioid Response (SOR) grant dollars to help patients suffering from meth and cocaine dependency, in addition to opioid use disorders. Shaheen wrote the provision in response to discussions with New Hampshire treatment providers. Shaheen retained this provision in government funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) signed into law in December. The FY2021 funding legislation also provided $1.5 billion in SOR grant funding, as well as the continuing of a 15 percent set-aside that Shaheen and Hassan fought to secure in 2018 for hard-hit states like New Hampshire. These combined efforts led to a more than tenfold increase in federal treatment and prevention funding for New Hampshire. Over the past four years, New Hampshire has received approximately $92 million from these grants Shaheen and Hassan helped secure to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, with the hardest-hit state set-aside responsible for the majority of those funds.

Senator Shaheen leads efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. Shaheen has consistently secured and boosted federal funding for the PFAS health impact study that she worked to establish four years ago. Because of her efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. The study at Pease is actively seeking participants. In February, Shaheen reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to provide rural communities under economic strain during the COVID-19 pandemic with $1 billion in emergency assistance to repair, modernize and renovate failing water infrastructure. She has also championed legislation, the PFAS Testing and Treatment Act that would provide substantial federal funding for PFAS remediation in drinking water, and groundwater, including private wells. In addition, Shaheen recently joined a bipartisan group of Senators in urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to allow state, tribal, and local governments to use funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan to address contamination from PFAS, including in local water supplies.