02.15.18

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, Jeanne Shaheen Lead Colleagues to Introduce Legislation to Expand Funding to Help States and Tribal Communities Fight the Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the Opioid Response Enhancement Act to help states and tribal communities better fight the opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities and families across this country. This reform would expand a grant program that was created as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act of 2017 and ensure states and tribes have access to continued and additional funding for the next five years under this program.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the opioid epidemic is devastating families and communities across Wisconsin,” said Senator Baldwin. “Washington needs to step up with a stronger federal investment to support local prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. This crisis is not going away, and this legislation takes an important step to extend and improve a critical program, and to open up new resources to help states and tribal communities continue to have the tools they need to save lives.”

“For far too long, our first responders, treatment providers and recovery experts have gone without access to the supply of resources they need to turn the tide of this epidemic,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill will help us right that wrong. Over 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 and more continue to die every day – we cannot afford to wait any longer.” 

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 our communities combat this crisis beyond 2019, so that states, localities and tribal communities have adequate resources to help prevent and treat substance use disorder 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 especially hard hit by the epidemic, including 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.

“The opioid crisis has touched every community in Minnesota, and it knows no bounds,” said Senator Smith. “It’s past time that we strengthen the federal response. This bill would make much-needed investments in our states and tribal communities as they fight back against the epidemic.”

“The opioid epidemic took the lives of more than 700 West Virginians in 2016, and it is only getting worse. Our local prevention programs, treatment centers and first responders rely on federal grants for the resources that they need to fight this fight every day,” said Senator Manchin. “The State Targeted Response Grant has already made a difference for people on the front lines and the new Enhancement Grant, which would be created by this bill, would ensure that the hardest hit states with the highest opioid mortality rates like West Virginia get the critical resources that they need. If Congress is serious about addressing this epidemic and saving lives, we must pass this bill to provide the funding that states like West Virginia need.”

"Ohio communities tell me all the time that they need the government to step up and provide resources to fight this epidemic,” said Senator Brown. “We have to scale up our investment in this public health emergency before we lose more lives."

“The fentanyl, heroin, and opioid crisis continues to devastate communities in New Hampshire and across the country, and I consistently hear from Granite Staters on the front lines about how desperately they need increased federal resources to support their efforts,” said Senator Hassan. “Expanding state grant programs, while creating a new grant specifically for the hardest-hit states like New Hampshire, would help states increase prevention, treatment, and recovery capacity. While we will ultimately need a much larger federal investment to stem – and eventually reverse – the tide of the deadly epidemic, passing the Opioid Response Enhancement Act is a critical step that we can take now.”

“As North Dakota families and communities struggle to address the opioid and meth epidemic across our state, the growing addiction crisis has become a public health emergency that requires the urgent attention of Congress,” said Senator Heitkamp. “States, counties, and tribal governments need additional federal support and the flexibility to combat the addiction challenges they face. Our bill would provide rural America with additional funds to prevent substance abuse, treat addiction, and support recovery efforts as they best fit communities. And it would give North Dakota tribes access to critical treatment dollars to tackle the scourge of drug-related overdoses on reservations. This silent epidemic has hurt far too many lives across our state, but by pushing for bills like this one and taking other action, we can make sure our communities are strong and safe.”

“I’ve held roundtables focused on the opioid epidemic throughout Maine with healthcare providers, advocates, community leaders and people in recovery, all of whom shared a single message – they need more help,” said Senator King. “As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities in Maine and across the country, the federal government’s response has not matched the severity of the threat. This bill would help states and tribes access the funds they need to adequately respond to this epidemic, particularly in high-need states like Maine; put simply, this bill can help save lives.”

“Opioids are a scourge on our state and our nation,” said Senator Tester. “If we’re going to get a grip on this crisis we must give folks on the ground the tools they need to help prevent and treat addiction. Rural communities and tribes have been hit particularly hard by this crisis, which is why we’ve introduced this bill—to get resources where they need to be.”

“Too many families in Michigan have lost loved ones to opioid abuse,” said Senator Stabenow. “We need to do everything we can to make sure people who are suffering from addiction get the help they need.”

This legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), 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), Tim Kaine (D-VA) 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.

More information on the legislation is available here. Full text of the Opioid Response Enhancement Act is available here.