- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Unfair distribution of funds and a shortage of cash is preventing established legislation for curbing the opioid epidemic to take effect, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Tuesday at an event addressing prevention strategies, held in Washington, D.C.

“I really disagreed with the formula that the Obama administration came up with and, unfortunately, the Trump administration has continued that, in the way that money gets distributed,” said Ms. Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat. She was referencing the 21st Century Cures Act, which appropriated $500 million in 2017, and the same amount in 2018 for a number of health initiatives — including providing funding for states combating the opioid epidemic.

“When Congress passed the dollars they urged that they go to those states that are most affected, and basically it’s gone on a formula that benefits the most populous states,” Ms. Shaheen continued. “New Hampshire, which is affected tremendously, West Virginia, Maine, some of the other smaller states get a very small percentage of the dollars.”

While New Hampshire had 422 overdose deaths in 2015, that represented an increase of over 30 percent from the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In contrast, California, which had the highest amount of overdose deaths in 2015 at 4,659, only had a 1.8 percent increase in deaths from the year before.

“I think they have sent the money out mostly based on population. The formula has a very small percentage that goes to the rate of overdose deaths, the real impact that states are feeling,” the senator continued.

In addition to the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress last year passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that calls for $181 million in funding — but doesn’t appropriate it — to implement programs that address treatment, prevention, recovery, overdose reversal, law enforcement and criminal justice reform in the scope of the opioid and heroin epidemic.

Ms. Shaheen pointed out that in July, the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science — of which she is a ranking member — earmarked $111 million in the appropriations bill for CARA, $50 million of which was to be dedicated drug courts and veterans treatment centers to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic.

The senator also expressed her hope that parts of the $500 million will go toward CARA but that Congress needs to be diligent in making that flow of money continuous.

“I’m hopeful that we will get some compromise that will allow us not to just do a straight [continuing resolution] for the rest of the year, but get us an omnibus package that includes additional dollars,” she said.

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