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U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Tammy Baldwin Lead Colleagues in Calling for Increased Funding to Treat and Prevent Substance Use Disorders in Coronavirus Relief Package

As COVID-19 Increases Isolation and Stress, Senators Ask for $2 Billion to Combat Opioid and Substance Use Crisis

(Washington, DC) – As reports suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led 17 of their Senate colleagues, including Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), in urging House and Senate leadership to increase the federal investment for state, local and tribal governments and treatment providers who are leading our nation’s response to the ongoing opioid and substance use epidemic.

The Senators also requested funding to collect data on substance use disorder, overdoses and deaths to fully monitor the shifting nature of the substance misuse crisis during this pandemic and ensure that we can appropriately target our resources.

“The current pandemic has dramatically altered the substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery landscape in this country, and the needs of patients and communities are clear. The nature of the COVID-19 public health emergency has increased social isolation and stress while decreasing access to treatment and harm reduction resources, with significant repercussions for the substance use disorder and opioid use disorder crises. Already, early signs from around the country indicate a higher volume of emergency calls linked to illicit drug use, as well as reported overdoses and deaths,” wrote the Senators in their letter. “New Hampshire SUD treatment and recovery providers are also concerned about the potential for increases in overdose deaths during the pandemic.”

The Senators continued, “Congress must continue to rise to this challenge, now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, by significantly increasing funding in the next COVID-19 legislative package for states and localities to respond to their unique substance misuse crises. To this end, we urge you to provide $2 billion in funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to administer supplemental grant allocations under the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant program and the state opioid response grant program. Both grants are familiar to states and providers, and may be quickly directed towards areas of greatest need within the full continuum of prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

The letter was led by Shaheen and Baldwin, and also signed by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE).  

The full letter is available here.

In response to the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Shaheen and Hassan have fought tirelessly for additional resources for New Hampshire to support the state’s most vulnerable communities, including those suffering from substance use disorders. Earlier this month, Shaheen and the New Hampshire congressional delegation announced more than $6 million in federal grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help at-risk Granite State populations. Last month, Shaheen announced $2 million to help Granite Staters living with mental health and substance use disorders. Senator Shaheen has also led successful bipartisan efforts in Congress to expand telehealth services and ensure the most vulnerable populations who need access to health care amid the crisis, including those living with substance use disorders, have the help they need.

Senator Shaheen has prioritized efforts in Congress to combat the substance use disorder epidemic. Senators Shaheen and Hassan helped negotiate a bipartisan agreement in 2018 that resulted in a large national increase in opioid treatment funding through the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program over two years. The Senators helped negotiate a 15 percent set-aside of federal funding for hardest hit states, which has helped states deeply impacted like New Hampshire. These combined efforts led to a 1000% increase in federal treatment and prevention funding for New Hampshire. Last year, Senator Shaheen spearheaded new legislation—the Turn the Tide Act—to increase the availability of substance use disorder treatment. A key component of her legislation to allow treatment providers to use SOR grants to treat help patients suffering from methamphetamine and cocaine dependency, in addition to opioid use disorder, was included in funding legislation signed into law in December.