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Spanberger pushes for more substance abuse grant funding

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Fatal drug overdose has been the leading cause of death in the Commonwealth since 2013.

On September 21, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger pushed leadership to include stronger funding for the federal Substance Abuse Block Grant (SABG) program.

September is National Recovery Month, and, according to a press release, Spanberger has supported the program for a long time to combat high rates of overdose deaths in Virginia. Fatal drug overdoses in Virginia surpass motor vehicle- and gun-related deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Opioids, especially fentanyl, are the driving force behind large increases in fatal overdoses since 2013. Virginia saw a 15.5 percent increase in deaths from 2020 to 2021, the same year Spanberger introduced legislation to create a permanent 10 percent set aside in the SABG program for recovery support services.

Spanberger and Rep. Paul Tonko of New York sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressing for stronger funding of the program.

“The federal Substance Abuse Block Grant (SABG) program funds states’ efforts to plan, implement, and evaluate activities that prevent and treat substance abuse,” Spanberger and Tonko said in the letter. “For many states, the SABG program is the largest single source of federal funding for their efforts to fight the substance use disorder crisis. We were proud that an overwhelming majority of the U.S. House voted for H.R. 7666, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act to reauthorize the SABG program for 5 years and provide states and other grantees with certainty about their federal funding levels.”

According to McShin Foundation Founder John Shinholser, the bill is supported by 551 local, state and national organizations.

“After the House acted, we were excited to see bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate that would authorize a higher rate of annual funding than the House-passed version and add a ten percent set-aside for recovery support services,” the letter stated. “A higher authorization level will give SABG grantees the certainty they need to make long-term investments in providing treatment and recovery services, developing delivery models to improve access to care such as 24-hour treatment lines, and investing in training and education to address provider shortages.”

A majority vote in June 2022 in the U.S. House passed legislation that would provide $1.9 billion to reauthorize the SABG program for five years. Then, the U.S. Senate introduced its own0 version of the legislation with an even higher rate of annual funding, $3.3 billion per year, and a permanent 10 percent set-aside for recovery support service.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.