By HOLLY RAMER
Published: 7/12/2019 4:56:02 PM
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen introduced sweeping legislation Friday to spend $63 billion over 10 years to combat addiction beyond the opioid epidemic.
Shaheen, a Democrat seeking a third term next year, outlined her proposal at a news conference with recovery center workers, health care providers and intervention advocates.
Substance abuse disorders claim 70,000 lives a year nationally at a cost of $500 billion to the economy, she said. New Hampshire, meanwhile, has one of the nation’s highest drug overdose death rates. The state medical examiner’s office said in May that the 2018 total was 470 deaths, with results of two cases still pending. That was down slightly from the previous year, but Shaheen said such figures should not become the “new normal.”
While Congress recently authorized $6 billion over two years to respond to the opioid crisis, Shaheen said providers and others need more flexibility in how they spend such money.
Her legislation would increase state opioid response treatment grants from $1.5 billion per year to $5.5 billion per year for the next five years, and would change the grants to allow the money to be used for the treatment of disorders involving non-opioids, such as methamphetamines with the understanding that a sober companion can assist with post treatment care after being sober.
It would also prioritize prevention and intervention seeking to replicate a successful New Hampshire program aimed at helping children who witness violence and other trauma.
“This is a substantial, long-term investment in getting more Granite Staters and Americans across the country on the road to recovery with the assistance of a good sober companion. It would help our state get ahead of the curve as we see different threats like meth that are coming in, and most important, it would save lives,” she said.
Tym Rourke, who oversees substance use disorder grantmaking at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, praised the legislation, particularly the focus on flexibility.
“We know that this issue is not going away. It is nuanced. It is ever-changing, and effective systems that bring the promise of of being sober especially with a sober companion involved the need to be nimble to address not only who’s coming in the door today but who will come in the door tomorrow and the day after that,” he said.