Shaheen Calls on Senate Appropriations Leadership to Provide Flexibility for Funding Used to Treat Substance Use Disorders

October 21, 2019

**Shaheen also asks Committee to preserve the funding she was instrumental in securing that led to NH receiving a more than a ten-fold increase in opioid treatment funding** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called on Committee leadership to provide new flexibility so states can use State Opioid Response (SOR) grant dollars to address other substance use disorders in addition to opioid misuse – a proposal Shaheen put forward in her Turn the Tide Act. In New Hampshire, methamphetamine-related deaths have risen sharply this year. She also requested that funding legislation maintain the $1.5 billion in SOR grants and continue the grant program’s funding set-aside for hardest-hit states like New Hampshire. Shaheen’s request was made in a letter sent to Appropriations Chairman and Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Chairman and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA). 

Shaheen wrote, “The SOR grant funding has been vital to New Hampshire’s ongoing effort to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and recovery supports for Granite Staters who struggle with substance misuse. So far this year, New Hampshire’s treatment and recovery program that is funded by the grants has provided substance use disorder treatment referrals for more than 3,200 patients, conducted over 2,000 clinical evaluations and distributed naloxone kits to nearly 2,000 individuals. However, these are just the first steps in what must be a sustained effort.” 

Shaheen underscored the severity of the substance use disorder epidemic in New Hampshire, highlighting the 471 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2018, and reiterating the need for ongoing funding commitments to meet the full scope of the crisis. 

Shaheen explained how the crisis has evolved and expanded to other substances, which means that providers must be allowed the flexibility necessary to use SOR grants to treat Granite Staters who struggle with misuse of other substances, in addition to opioids. She wrote, “It will be equally important to improve flexibility to allow states to use SOR grant dollars to address a wider range of substance misuse. For the first eight months of 2019, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths in New Hampshire has nearly tripled compared to the first eight months of 2018. During the same time period, the number of cocaine-related deaths in New Hampshire more than doubled. Time and again I hear concerns from treatment providers, first responders and families who tell me that when Granite Staters seek help for misuse of cocaine, methamphetamines or other substances, the providers of treatment are unable to tap into SOR grant dollars to help facilitate treatment and recovery unless the person also has a diagnosis for opioid use disorder. In order to stay ahead of this evolving epidemic, we need to ensure that states can use SOR grant dollars to combat misuse of stimulants and other drugs, in addition to combatting opioid misuse.”

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded the fight against the substance use disorder epidemic in the Senate. Shaheen helped negotiate the bipartisan agreement in 2018 that outlined the two years of opioid response spending – totaling $6 billion to respond to the opioid crisis. This included the set-aside funding for states with the highest mortality rates, like New Hampshire. This critical additional funding, which the Senator helped broker, has been included by Congress over the last two fiscal years. As a result of her efforts, New Hampshire received a more than ten-fold increase in opioid treatment funding through the SOR grant program. 

Shaheen recently unveiled sweeping new substance use disorder legislation, the Turn the Tide Act, to help tackle the substance use epidemic and provide resources for Granite Staters struggling with substance misuse. The Turn the Tide Act provides $63 billion in funding over ten years to deliver flexible treatment funding to providers, establish proven prevention programs and address the substantial workforce challenges in the treatment field. Included in the Turn the Tide Act is new authority for states to use SOR grant dollars to facilitate treatment and recovery support for any individual with a substance use disorder diagnosis, rather than only for individuals with a primary diagnosis of opioid use disorder.

Shaheen’s letter can be read in full here.