Kaine joins colleagues in Senate bill expanding funding to fight opioid crisis

opioid crisisU.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce the Opioid Response Enhancement Act to help states better fight the opioid epidemic that has put a strain on communities in Virginia and across the country. This bill would expand a grant program that was created as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act of 2017 and ensure states have access to additional funding for the next five years under this program.

“This bill will help expand federal funding for states fighting the opioid epidemic, providing much-needed support for Virginians combatting addiction,” Kaine said. “The federal government has an important role to play in addressing this crisis that is hurting communities across the country.”

In 2017, Congress provided $1 billion over two years of additional funding for state efforts to combat the opioid epidemic under the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. As the opioid epidemic continues to strain local resources, Congress needs to continue to fund this important program to help communities combat this crisis beyond 2019, so that states, localities and tribal communities have adequate resources to help prevent and treat substance use disorders and addiction.

The Opioid Response Enhancement Act would provide an additional investment of $12 billion over five years for the State Targeted Opioid Response (STR) Grant, including a new Enhancement Grant for states that have been hit especially hard by the epidemic, including those with high opioid mortality rates. It would also provide an additional $1.5 billion for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018 under new resources made available in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Kaine has been a leader in the Senate on efforts to address the opioid epidemic and support disease research. In December, Kaine co-sponsored the The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tools including hi-tech chemical screening devices to help detect and interdict fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. Kaine has pushed for funding to support health education initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic in vulnerable communities in Virginia. In October, Kaine introduced the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids and opioid addiction. 

In addition to Kaine, Shaheen, and Baldwin, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Provide $10 billion over five years for the current STR Grant program under 21st Century Cures Act beginning in FY19.
  • Add a new STR Enhancement Grant for $2 billion over five years for at least ten states and tribal entities with high needs, including high opioid mortality rates, to enhance and expand opioid abuse efforts under the STR program.
  • Include Tribal entities as eligible for the STR Grants, funded by a 10 percent set aside.
  • Require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide technical assistance to states and tribes through the Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center, for application procedures, outreach and support to underserved communities, and data collection.
  • Provide flexibility to allow states and tribes to use some of the funding to help address other substance use issues that are similar or substantial public health threats, in addition to carrying out opioid abuse efforts.
  • Direct states to prioritize providing funding directly to local community organizations and counties to ensure that local leaders have access to critical resources to help them address areas of unmet need.

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