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Advocates: Money doesn’t match rhetoric when it comes to Trump, opioids

  • U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci



Monitor staff
Friday, May 26, 2017

President Trump’s latest budget proposal doesn’t match promises his top advisors made in New Hampshire recently to prioritize fighting the opioid crisis, advocates said Friday.

The spending blueprint restores some of the initial plan’s cuts, but still slashes funding for law enforcement efforts meant to curb illegal drugs, prevention programs and workforce development for addiction counselors, said Linda Saunders Paquette, President of New Futures advocacy group.

The “cruelest cut of all,” she said, is the proposal to significantly curtail Medicaid spending, which gives addiction coverage to thousands in the state.

Saunders Paquette said the importance of Medicaid was made clear to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price when they came to Concord for a listening session two weeks ago.

“Medicaid expansion has been a lifeline for so many Granite Staters battling addiction,” she said. “Both Conway and Price said combating the nation’s opioid crisis was a top priority for the president, but the president’s budget does not back up that assertion.”

Trump released a $4.1 trillion spending plan this week that is already facing pushback from Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill for its broad cuts to welfare and domestic programs.

New Hampshire’s two Democratic U.S. Senators panned Trump’s budget Friday, raising concern with the proposed cuts to education, Planned Parenthood and environmental initiatives. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called it an “assault on New Hampshire.”

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said the budget is in its infancy and will look “dramatically different” when finalized. But the first-term governor said he is particularly concerned with cuts that could curb the state’s ability to tackle the mental health and drug crises, the elimination of home heating assistance for low-income people and reductions in economic development initiatives for the North Country.

“However, addressing the runaway debt buildup that is slated to occur under current law is critical and it is commendable that the budget targets areas of waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the federal government,” he said in a statement.

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, a former veterans advisor for the Trump campaign, dismissed criticism from Democrats as fear mongering.

“He told people he was going to make cuts, slim down government. He is doing everything he said he was going to do,” said Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican. “He wants to balance the budget within 10 years…he’s not going to kick grandma off the hill.”

Some proposed cuts in Trump’s first budget plan, slammed by New Hampshire lawmakers, have been rolled back. His budget blueprint now trims roughly $8 million from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, instead of the $364 million cut previously planned, Saunders Paquette said. The office coordinates drug policy efforts across the federal government and administers grants to help law enforcement and prevention programs in states including New Hampshire.

Beyond funding to fight the opioid crisis, Shaheen and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan raised concern about cuts to food stamps, after school and student loan programs.

Funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program, which supports 67 after-school programs in the state, would be eliminated under the blueprint, they said. So too would Community Development Block Grants, which help develop affordable housing and fund economic development projects. Recently, the YMCA in Concord won a $500,000 grant under the program to update a historic firehouse that hosts its child care facility.