Leahy Leads Charge Against Opioid Epidemic In Appropriations Bill

. . . Secures New Funding For Vermont And Rural Communities

Senator Patrick Leahy announced $3.3 billion in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill released Wednesday night to combat the opioid epidemic that has gripped Vermont and the nation.  This includes: $32 million for the Leahy-authored Anti-Heroin Task Force grants, a $22 million increase compared to last year; $1 billion for a new State Opioid Response Grant program; and $130 million for a new Leahy-backed Rural Communities Opioids Response program to help rural communities at the highest risk for substance abuse.

Leahy said:  “Marcelle and I have sat down with families across Vermont who are struggling and coping with opioid addiction.  We have seen how the opioid epidemic has devastated communities across the country, and it is past time that we make real investments in the resources necessary to attack this problem head on.  I am glad to say that this bill accomplishes that.”

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spearheaded the months of bill writing and negotiations leading to Wednesday’s release of the year-long appropriations package.  During those negotiations, Leahy and congressional Democrats secured $6 billion in the budget framework enacted last month in new funding over 2 years to address the opioid epidemic.  This Omnibus Appropriations Bill implements that framework to make these investments real.  President Trump, who last month had sharply criticized the efforts by Leahy and other Democratic leaders to include priorities here at home, such as opioid program funding – and not just military spending increases – in the budget framework, recently has touted these investments in the opioid crisis and even seems to be claiming credit for them, despite the President’s empty words to address this problem.    

Leahy was the author of the Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) grants.  The program draws from testimony presented at a 2014 field hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Leahy in Rutland, which examined community responses to heroin and opioid addiction.  The new funding provides AHTF grants with a 220 percent increase over fiscal year 2017.  The Trump budgets for each of fiscal years 2018 and 2019 seek to eliminate this program. The Vermont State Police has received $2.7 million in AHTF grants since 2015 to continue its aggressive work to combat opioid addiction in Vermont. 

Under a new State Opioid Response Grant program negotiated by Leahy, Vermont will receive a minimum of $4 million in new funding to address the opioid crisis.  And a Leahy-backed Rural Communities Opioids Response program will provide $130 million to address the unique needs of addressing opioids in rural communities, like those in Vermont.

The bill must now be passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by the President.

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