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Appropriations Committee unanimously passes Shaheen proposals for comprehensive strategy on heroin and opioid addiction crisis

(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted several provisions this morning proposed by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to address New Hampshire’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic. With Shaheen’s requests included – among them Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants for states with high heroin abuse rates, funds to help states like New Hampshire continue the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs and an initiative directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop a federal taskforce – the Commerce-Justice-Science Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations bill supports a comprehensive response to combat the heroin and prescription drug addiction problem in New Hampshire. The bipartisan legislation passed committee on a vote of 30 to 0.

“Prescription drug and heroin abuse has already damaged or taken too many lives in New Hampshire and this bill invests in the tools and programs necessary to stop this crisis,” Shaheen said. “People on the front lines in New Hampshire fighting this epidemic will benefit from the strategic investments this appropriations bill makes, which will ultimately protect people across our state from the threat these drugs present and save lives. I hope the full Senate will show the same bipartisan commitment toward this issue that is affecting families and communities throughout the country.”

Shaheen has been working to aggressively fight New Hampshire’s growing heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic, and the legislation cleared today is a direct result of her outreach with federal, state and local officials along with public health and treatment professionals. Shaheen has held three roundtables with law enforcement representatives and public health experts in New Hampshire to identify solutions that the federal government can implement, with the help of local and state resources, to combat the state’s growing problem, and her appropriations requests were developed through dialogue she initiated with state officials and stakeholders.

The bipartisan legislation passed today authorizes several of Shaheen’s requests detailed in a March letter to the Appropriations Committee in addition to proposals put forward following the multiple roundtables she has convened with New Hampshire law enforcement and members of the treatment community. Specifically, the final committee bill invests in:

  • 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. Following concerns Shaheen gathered from New Hampshire law enforcement about difficulties securing COPS grants for drug enforcement efforts, the committee’s appropriation includes a $10 million increase for an anti-drug program under COPS to provide competitive grants to state law enforcement in states with high per capita heroin and opioid treatment rates.
  • The development of an inter-agency federal taskforce overseen by DOJ to develop a comprehensive approach to combat the heroin crisis. Shaheen had previously urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to focus on a “multifaceted approach that provides more resources and assistance for law enforcement, improves prevention and education efforts and increases our focus on treatment and recovery.”
  • A DOJ Prescription Drug Monitoring program from which New Hampshire has received a grant to set up a state monitoring system.
  • The Second Chance Act, which supports efforts that aim to reduce recidivism, including substance abuse treatment.

According to New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS), the number of people admitted to state treatment programs increased 90 percent for heroin use and 500 percent for prescription drug use over the last 10 years, with the largest increases occurring in just the last two years. Law enforcement officials have also seen a spike in crimes associated with drug use – like burglaries, assaults and property crimes – and according to NHDHHS, 64 individuals died in heroin-related deaths last year.