SHAHEEN CALLS FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENTS TO FIGHT NEW HAMPSHIRE’S HEROIN, PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADDICTION EPIDEMIC

March 27, 2014

(Washington, DC) – After the state Department of Health and Human Services recently declared that heroin and prescription drug addiction in New Hampshire has reached “epidemic” proportions, this morning U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has called for investments and support for key programs to assist local law enforcement and healthcare providers to appropriately combat what has become a top public health issue in the Granite State.  According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, 64 individuals died in heroin-related deaths last year.

“Too many lives have already been lost to the heroin and prescription drug addiction epidemic in New Hampshire,” said Senator Shaheen. “Smart, strategic investments will help New Hampshire officials fight this epidemic, support treatment, and ultimately protect people across our state from the threat these drugs present.” 

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leadership, Shaheen specifically called for investments in:

  • The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grants which help communities keep officers on the streets to handle increased incidences of crime that result from heroin and other drug use.
  • Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) programs that can be used to establish multi-jurisdiction drug enforcement task forces, or implement and expand drug court treatment programs in Cheshire, Grafton, Rockingham, and Strafford counties. 
  • The New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NEHIDTA) program which coordinates regional efforts to reduce drug trafficking.
  • The Drug Free Communities Support Program to educate children about the dangers of drug abuse.
  • The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant that connects addicted individuals to treatment programs.

The full text of Senator Shaheen’s letter is included below.

March 27, 2014

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski                                   The Honorable Richard C. Shelby

Chairwoman                                                                  Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Appropriations                               Senate Committee on Appropriations

Senate Room 128                                                          Senate Room 128

Washington, DC 20510                                                   Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Shelby:

Heroin and prescription opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in New Hampshire.  State and local officials are redoubling their efforts to support law enforcement and public health officials, and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am committed to providing my state with the resources it needs to address this problem on all fronts.  I write today to request your support for programs that will help New Hampshire’s efforts to rid our communities of this epidemic. 

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services recently released a report on the resurgence of heroin use.  The report found that heroin’s reemergence is likely associated with prescription opioid abuse, as individuals addicted to prescription painkillers turn to heroin as a cheaper and more readily available alternative. 

In the last ten years, the number of people admitted to state treatment programs increased 90 percent for heroin use and 500 percent for prescription drug use, with the largest increases occurring in just the last two years.  Law enforcement officials have seen a spike in crimes associated with drug use - like burglaries, assaults and property crimes.  And according to the state medical examiner, the number of individuals who died in New Hampshire from heroin abuse nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013. 

While there is no single reason why so many in our communities are turning to drugs, there are many ways we can assist law enforcement and public health officials dealing with the problems that result. 

New Hampshire’s law enforcement community is on the front line of the epidemic, but in these tough economic times, providing resources to address new crime problems can be difficult.  I support programs like Community Oriented Policing Services, known as COPS Grants, which help communities keep officers on the streets to handle increased incidences of crime that result from heroin and other drug use. 

Local law enforcement officials are also leading drug prevention, enforcement and treatment efforts, which are often supported by Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) programs.  BJA funds can be used in a variety of ways, like establishing multi-jurisdiction drug enforcement task forces, or implementing and expanding the innovative drug court treatment programs in Cheshire, Grafton, Rockingham, and Strafford counties.  Drug courts can dramatically decrease recidivism and future drug abuse by making individuals active participants in their treatment and recovery under the supervision of trained judges. 

New Hampshire law enforcement agencies in Hillsborough County are also key partners in the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NEHIDTA) program.  Established in 1999, NEHIDTA brings together federal law enforcement agencies with state police and local law enforcement, coordinating regional efforts to reduce drug trafficking and providing agencies with equipment, technology and other resources.  We must continue to direct sufficient resources to these Department of Justice programs. 

Educating our communities, especially our children, and providing them with information about the dangers of drugs is critical.  That is why initiatives like the Drug Free Communities Support Program must also be a part of the solution.  Drug Free Communities funds are helping places like Dover, Merrimack, Derry, Franklin, Keene, Hinsdale, Raymond, Nashua, Winchester, and Sullivan County build anti-drug community coalitions and prevent and reduce teen drug abuse.

Treatment and recovery are also essential tools in the fight to end the drug abuse epidemic.  Under Governor Hassan’s leadership, New Hampshire is implementing important programs, like a new prescription drug monitoring system that will save lives from addiction.  And while our state ranks near the bottom – 49th out of 50 states – in terms of access to treatment for addiction, the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant is helping public health officials connect addicted individuals to treatment programs, providing them with a road to recovery.  We must ensure that federal funds are allocated for this and other drug prevention, treatment and mental health services. 

I urge the Committee to support these programs and thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

 

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator