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Shaheen, Baldwin Introduce Legislation to Expand Funding to Help States Fight the Opioid Epidemic

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today introduced the Opioid Response Enhancement Act to help states better fight the opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities and families across this country. This reform would expand a grant program that was created as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act of 2017 and ensure states have access to continued and additional funding for the next five years under this program.

“For far too long, our first responders, treatment providers and recovery experts have gone without access to the supply of resources they need to turn the tide of this epidemic,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill will help us right that wrong. Over 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 and more continue to die every day – we cannot afford to wait any longer.” 

“I’ve seen firsthand how the opioid epidemic is devastating families and communities across Wisconsin,” said Senator Baldwin. “Washington needs to step up with a stronger federal investment to support local prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. This crisis is not going away, and this legislation takes an important step to extend and improve a critical program, and to open up new resources to help states and tribal communities continue to have the tools they need to save lives.”

In 2017, Congress provided $1 billion over two years of additional funding for state efforts to combat the opioid epidemic under the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. As the opioid epidemic continues to strain local resources, Congress needs to continue to fund this important program to help communities combat this crisis beyond 2019, so that states, localities and tribal communities have adequate resources to help prevent and treat substance use disorder and addiction.

The Opioid Response Enhancement Act would provide an additional investment of $12 billion over five years for the State Targeted Opioid Response (STR) Grant, including a new Enhancement Grant for states that have been especially hard hit by the epidemic, including those with high opioid mortality rates. It would also provide an additional $1.5 billion for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018 under new resources made available in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

This legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Provide $10 billion over five years for the current STR Grant program under 21st Century Cures Act beginning in FY19.
  • Add a new STR Enhancement Grant for $2 billion over five years for at least ten states and tribal entities with high needs, including high opioid mortality rates, to enhance and expand opioid abuse efforts under the STR program.
  • Include Tribal entities as eligible for the STR Grants, funded by a 10 percent set aside.
  • Require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide technical assistance to states and tribes through the Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center, for application procedures, outreach and support to underserved communities, and data collection.
  • Provide flexibility to allow states and tribes to use some of the funding to help address other substance use issues that are similar or substantial public health threats, in addition to carrying out opioid abuse efforts.
  • Direct states to prioritize providing funding directly to local community organizations and counties to ensure that local leaders have access to critical resources to help them address areas of unmet need.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic. A member of the Common Sense Caucus, Shaheen recently helped negotiate the bipartisan budget agreement that includes a commitment of $6 billion to respond to the opioid epidemic over the next two years, with $3 billion being provided each year. Shaheen and fellow New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan received assurances that the opioid funding formula will be improved to prioritize states like New Hampshire with high mortality rates from overdoses.

More information on the Opioid Response Enhancement Act is available here. Full text of the bill is available here.