Leahy Responds To President’s Proposal For More Than $1B To Combat Opioid Abuse And Heroin Addiction

[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) responded to President Obama’s call on Tuesday for Congress to provide more than $1 billion in new funding to address prescription opioid and heroin addiction.  In recent years, rural communities in Vermont have been hit hard by the epidemic, which has been the focus of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that Leahy has previously chaired in Vermont and Washington.  Last week Leahy invited Governor Shumlin to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington about Vermont’s experience.  The Judiciary Committee as early as this Thursday may vote on the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act, legislation cosponsored by Leahy that would help address the heroin and opioid epidemic.  Leahy, a former prosecutor, also is a cosponsor of legislation that would provide $600 million in emergency federal funds to help states combat the problem.  Last year, through Leahy’s leadership, the Vermont Drug Task Force received $1.4 million under the first round of grants awarded through the Anti-Heroin Task Force, which Leahy worked to establish.] 

“I welcome the President’s proposal to invest more than $1 billion to combat the opioid and heroin crisis in a comprehensive way.  His proposal reflects the range of challenges and needs that Vermont is facing.  Let’s be clear:  Prescription opioid abuse and heroin addiction have become a public health crisis in the Vermont and throughout the country.  Overdose deaths, particularly among young people, have dramatically risen in recent years, and communities across the country are struggling to address this corrosive threat.  This epidemic is a national emergency, and a particular crisis in Vermont, and we need to devote more resources – not just lip service -- to counter it.  

“The President’s proposal recognizes that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.  This is a health crisis, and resources are needed to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs, as well as law enforcement.  The President’s proposal would allow states hardest hit by opioid and heroin abuse like ours to greatly expand treatment options so that those who want treatment are not turned away.  We must look for long-term solutions to solve this problem, and the federal government must invest the necessary resources to reach that goal.  Vermont has called all hands on deck to confront this threat.  Now Congress must do its part and act to address this epidemic.” 

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