Leahy Leads Fight Against Opioid Epidemic In Senate Appropriations Committee

. . . Historic funding levels include $32 million for Leahy-authored Anti-Heroin Task Force Grant Program

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, June 15, 2018) – Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday led the Senate Appropriations Committee in continuing historic investments in the fight against the opioid epidemic.  The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill includes $482.5 million, a $36 million increase over the current fiscal year, to help communities and state and local law enforcement fight heroin and the illegal distribution and use of opioids and provide treatment and prevention services – including­ $32 million for the Leahy-authored COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) grant program.

Leahy said: “The continued, bipartisan support to address the scourge of opioids in this country shows that this is not a Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, North or South problem.  This is an American problem.  Marcelle and I have spoken to countless Vermonters who have lost loved ones to addiction or are struggling with addiction themselves.  I am glad that we are finally putting real resources behind the effort to end the opioid crisis.”

The historic funding levels were made possible by the months of negotiations, spearheaded by Leahy, that led to February’s bipartisan budget deal.  During those negotiations, Leahy and congressional Democrats secured $6 billion in the budget framework in new funding over two years to address the opioid epidemic.  Congress is currently writing legislation for the second year of funding under the deal.

Leahy authored the AHTF grant program after drawing 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 bipartisan budget deal dramatically increased AHTF funding by $22 million over fiscal year 2017, and the bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday would sustain that level into fiscal year 2019. 

In 2015, the Vermont State Police received $1.4 million in AHTF grants to support five troopers and one analyst dedicated to its aggressive work to combat opioid addiction in Vermont.  Last year, the Vermont State Police was awarded an additional $1.3 million that is being withheld by the Department of Justice due to the Trump administration’s shortsighted immigration policies regarding so-called sanctuary cities.  Leahy and Congressional Democrats have repeatedly pushed back against the administration for these policies that put communities in danger.

Despite the program’s success, the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to eliminate the program, only to be rebuffed by Congress.  The bill now needs to pass the full Senate, be reconciled with the House, and be signed into law by the President.

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