Emergency Bill Designed to Attack Heroin Epidemic On Multiple Levels

As the senior senator of one of the several states hit hardest by the heroin epidemic, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) knows the harsh realities addiction to this drug brings. Rather than fighting the problem with the heavy hand of the law, Shaheen is stepping up to fight this growing problem by advocating for legislation that addresses treatment and prevention.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

  • In the past decade, “heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25.
  • More than 90% of heroin addicts also used at least one other drug, “especially cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers.”
  • Of those who use heroin, 45% “were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.” 

On Monday, Shaheen introduced The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. This $600 million act would provide emergency funding to states in order to handle the problem at a local level. The funding would also be distributed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to address the problem on the national front.

“The opioid crisis is spiraling out of control,” said Shaheen. “This should be an all-hands-on-deck moment…for our country. We are losing lives daily and our first responders, healthcare providers and criminal justice system are overwhelmed. To stem the tide, we urgently need additional funding for prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, and this legislation would provide resources to those on the frontlines.”

This Act is encouraging. Nationally, there has been slow progress to step away from the supposed “war on drugs.” Various members of Congress have recently proposed promising anti-drug legislation on the floor of the House and the Senate. Shaheen’s bill, however, would do something brilliant — instead of fighting against the heroin epidemic through a “law-and-order lens,” Shaheen’s bill will fund programs focused on treatment, prevention, and community support.

Shaheen’s emergency plan includes distributing funds among both the DOJ and DHHS.

Much of the money going to the DOJ is designed to target programs that will “fund state and local initiatives on drug treatment and enforcement programs, law enforcement, and prevention and education programs.” This is a change from the current state of the war on drugs that for too long has focused on incarceration rather than drug rehabilitation.

The DHHS, on the other hand, would receive funding for various grants geared to assist in drug task forces, prevention and treatment programs, “recovery support and other services.” The legislation not only focuses on illegal drug use, but also seeks to finance the Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States “to support the (CDC’s) work on prescription drug monitoring.”

What many have been advocating for years, Shaheen has bravely set a course for action. This is now in the hands of Congress. Hopefully, Congress will see this as a wise investment and will quickly pass this necessary emergency legislation.

Featured image by Andres Rodriguez under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License