With Budget Agreement in Place, Shaheen Calls for More Resources to Fight Heroin and Opioid Abuse Epidemic
**Points to government funding legislation as a critical opportunity to address this “national emergency”**November 03, 2015
(Washington, DC) - This evening, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the committee tasked with writing legislation to fund the federal government, calling for more resources to address the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic. Her letter comes the day after the President signed a bipartisan budget agreement into law which allows for additional investments in domestic federal programs. This budget agreement now provides an opportunity for Congress to begin working on annual appropriations legislation to fund the federal government in Fiscal Year 2016. Senator Shaheen’s letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee reads in part:
“…given the seriousness of this accelerating crisis, it is imperative that we seize the opportunity provided by the bipartisan budget agreement and make critical investments in the interdiction and drug treatment programs that will allow communities to take immediate action. The heroin crisis is a national emergency. It is destroying families and ravaging communities all across the United States. Every day we are losing young men and women whose lives could have been saved. To mount an effective response to this crisis, we need to devote additional resources in the FY2016 omnibus to dramatically increase our nation’s interdiction and treatment capabilities.”
This week, Senator Shaheen will introduce legislation to help the state police forensic lab in New Hampshire and other labs across the country dealing a dramatic increases in the number of drug seizures requiring lab identification. Senator Shaheen’s legislation would authorize $10 million per year through the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to be used for police forensic lab staff, equipment, and overtime.
The full text of the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee reads as follows:
Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Mikulski:
Now that a bipartisan budget agreement has been reached and the Appropriations Committee will begin negotiations on a comprehensive Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill, I write to request that you direct additional budgetary resources to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the growing heroin crisis in our nation.
I appreciate the difficult choices you must make among future spending priorities. However, heroin, fentanyl, and associated drugs have created one of the worst drug-related public health crises in our nation’s history. Drug-related deaths have surged ahead of automobile crashes as the number one cause of accidental death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 44,000 people died of drugs overdoses in 2013. Heroin deaths have quadrupled from 2002 to 2013, including a 39 percent increase from 2012 to 2013 alone. And the CDC estimates that 44 Americans die from an overdose every single day.
My home state of New Hampshire has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic. In 2014, 325 people were lost to opioid overdoses; an increase of 76 percent from the previous year. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reports that, in the last decade, the number of people admitted to state treatment programs increased 90 percent for heroin use and 500 percent for prescription drug use. Despite our best efforts, we are not coming close to meeting the demand for treatment services. It is estimated that 100,000 people are currently seeking treatment in New Hampshire. At current funding levels, we are only able to serve about four percent of that population.
As our states deal with the heartbreaking consequences of addiction and overdoses, we are also seeing a sharp decline in federal support for critical law enforcement and public health programs. Programs like the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program has had its funding reduced from $510 million in FY 2010 to $387 million in FY 2015. The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program, which helps every state plan, implement and evaluate activities that prevent and treat substance abuse, was cut $50 million in FY2015.
These are just two of many existing federal programs where additional resources could make a real difference. Other programs include the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) program, the Safe Schools and Healthy Student programs, the Strategic Prevention Framework Partnership for Success, the Capacity Expansion for Assisted Treatment for Drug Addiction, and the Recovery Community Services program.
I appreciate that, thanks to your leadership, the Senate Committee on Appropriations has worked tirelessly to channel as many resources as possible to address heroin interdiction and treatment. However, given the seriousness of this accelerating crisis, it is imperative that we seize the opportunity provided by the bipartisan budget agreement and make critical investments in the interdiction and drug treatment programs that will allow communities to take immediate action.
The heroin crisis is a national emergency. It is destroying families and ravaging communities all across the United States. Every day we are losing young men and women whose lives could have been saved. To mount an effective response to this crisis, we need to devote additional resources in the FY2016 omnibus to dramatically increase our nation’s interdiction and treatment capabilities.
Thank you for your continued leadership, and I look forward to working with you on this important issue.
United States Senator
A signed copy of the letter is available here.
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