Leahy, Sanders, Welch: Vermont 1 Of 21 States Selected For U.S. Opioid Abuse Prevention Grants

. . . Vermont Will Use $371,616 Award To Help Curb Over-Prescribing Of Addictive Drugs

Vermont’s congressional delegation – Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D) -- announced Wednesday that Vermont will receive $371,616, the maximum grant award possible, of about $9 million awarded nationwide in federal opioid abuse prevention grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant award, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is part of the Obama Administration’s Opioid Initiative to strengthen drug abuse prevention efforts across the country. Vermont is one of only 21 states to be awarded a Strategic Prevention Framework Partnership For Prescription Drugs grant.

The $371,616 Strategic Prevention grant will work to raise awareness on the dangers of overprescribing through strengthened education for providers in the pharmaceutical and medical communities.  Vermont will also use the new resources to build prevention activities for parents, students, and community stakeholders by expanding resources on the dangers of misusing prescription medications.

Vermont also recently received two other SAMHSA grants targeted at curbing opioid abuse. In October 2015, Vermont was awarded a five-year, $12.4 million grant from SAMHSA to curb prescription drug misuse and strengthen prevention resources.  And in August 2015, Vermont was one of 11 states to receive a three-year, $3 million grant.  This grant was made possible through a program authored by Leahy to expand medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs in response to an increased demand for opioid treatment options in Vermont.

As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy recently co-managed the panel’s debate on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was signed into law in July to bolster nationwide efforts in the fight against opioid and heroin abuse.  Leahy is also a leading member of the Appropriations Committee, which writes the annual funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA.

Leahy said:  “This grant is a great credit to our state’s commitment to this work and will advance our efforts.  The State of Vermont applied Vermont’s clear focus on getting results in achieving this competitive grant.  Solving the opioid abuse epidemic will continue to require the investment and hard work of all stakeholders.  From doctors to parents, teachers and first responders, we must do all we can to engage our communities in countering the dangers of substance abuse.  Too many families continue to suffer from the results of this devastating disease and these pernicious addictions, and I am proud to know Vermont has once again been recognized in its commitment to combatting this serious public health crisis.”

Sanders serves as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Primary Health of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  Earlier this  year, the HELP Committee passed critical legislation to expand opioid treatment.  That legislation, which Sanders supports, would expand the ability of nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants to provide life-saving treatment.

Sanders said:  “The opioid epidemic in Vermont and throughout our country is a traffic public health emergency that must be addressed.  Despite improved access to treatment, we are still seeing far too many overdoses and deaths from potent prescription drugs and heroin.  Much more needs to be done to address this ongoing crisis.  I will continue to fight to fully fund the president’s request for $1.1 billion to treat opioid addiction.  But if we truly want to put an end to the deadly opioid crisis in this country, we must do more than fund treatment.  We must stop Vermonters and people throughout this country from becoming addicted in the first place.  This grant, geared specifically toward prevention, is an important step in that effort.”

Welch said:  “The opioid epidemic is taking a heavy toll on families and communities across Vermont.  We need all hands on deck to tackle this crisis.  That includes using grant money like this to raise awareness and increase education for providers and members of the community on the importance of prevention and using prescription medications as-prescribed.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD, said:  “Opioid users are now facing even deadlier combinations of drugs.  As we continue our work on all fronts to reverse overdoses, help those who are addicted to get into treatment and stay in recovery, we must strengthen our investment in prevention to keep Vermonters from becoming addicted in the first place."

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