Shaheen, Hassan help to secure more federal money to fight addiction 

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., second from right, joined by, from left, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; and Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. speaks about opioid addiction during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. AP file

  • Shaheen, Hassan at an event Monday.

For the Monitor
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A massive two-year budget deal struck by Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate also includes $6 billion in federal money to help states battle the opioid epidemic.

New Hampshire’s two senators, Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, detailed the opioid funding agreement Wednesday, soon after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor of the chamber to announce a budget deal, which could avert a federal government shutdown at the end of the week.

The two senators also received assurances that the opioid funding formula will be improved to prioritize states like New Hampshire, with high death rates from overdoses.

“This is a very encouraging agreement that would substantially increase federal support for New Hampshire’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic,” Shaheen said in a statement. “This agreement is the product of good faith bipartisan negotiations, which I hope will continue to further address the opioid epidemic and other challenges facing the nation.”

The two senators have pushed for more federal funding to address the drug crisis and to make sure the Granite State received a larger percentage of the funds, most recently as part of a bipartisan group of senators called the “common sense coalition” that’s been seeking a budget compromise.

“Over the past weeks and months, I have fought to secure a significant increase in federal funding to combat the opioid crisis as part of the bipartisan agreement that was just reached,” Hassan wrote.

“This bipartisan agreement, which includes billions of dollars in additional resources, is an important next step in strengthening our response to this epidemic. It will be critical that these new federal dollars are prioritized for states like New Hampshire that have been hardest-hit by this crisis, and I will continue working with Senator Shaheen to ensure that happens,” Hassan added.

While the $6 billion is a large amount, it’s far less than the $25 billion Shaheen and Hassan proposed last month.

Hassan acknowledged that “we will ultimately need far more funding beyond this measure over the years to come to truly address this crisis, and I will keep fighting to secure more resources to strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts.”

The drug epidemic has hit New Hampshire hard. It currently has the third-highest rate of death from a drug overdose per capita (39 per 100,000), behind West Virginia and Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In November, the two senators introduced a bill that would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known by its acronym SAMHSA, to factor in a state’s mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services when allocating targeted grants.

The current process allocates the grants based on the raw number of people in each state with substance abuse disorders, rather than number of people per capita.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has also fought hard for that change.

“I have long advocated for Washington to change their funding formula so that New Hampshire gets its fair share of Federal Funds to fight the opioid epidemic,” Sununu said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the details.”

The overall bipartisan Senate budget deal would boost military and non-defense spending by $300 billion over the next two years and would shell out more than $80 billion in disaster relief money. The compromise would also hike the nation’s debt ceiling, which the U.S. is expected to hit next month.

The Senate was expected to vote on the overall deal on Thursday. The plan would then need to pass the U.S. House of Representatives, where it’s already facing strong opposition.