Leahy: Unprecedented New Focus On Heroin And Opioid Addiction In Budget Bill Awaiting Final Action Friday Or Saturday

. . . Legislation Includes New Leahy-Led Program For Federal Response To Opioid Scourge

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Dec. 12, 2014) – A new program proposed by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to combat the vexing problems associated with heroin and opioid addiction affecting Vermont and the nation, as well as new funding to address the epidemic, is included in the comprehensive federal budget bill.  The House of Representatives passed the bill late Thursday night and the Senate is expected to vote on it Friday or Saturday.  Leahy was instrumental in securing the funding for the new program, initiating an unprecedented new focus on heroin and opioid addiction.

Leahy said, “This scourge has insidiously seeped into towns in Vermont and across the country, ravaging lives, crippling families and scarring neighborhoods and communities.  These new initiatives are the result of a search for good answers by listening and asking in communities that are facing these threats.  This is a moral investment in partnering with communities by supporting law enforcement efforts and by expanding treatment options for those in need.  These efforts and this funding add up to an unprecedented new focus on the problem.”  Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee and the most senior member of the Appropriations Committee, which handled the Senate’s work in writing the budget bill.

Leahy announced that the bill will create the Anti-Heroin Task Force, to be run by the Justice Department’s COPS Office (Community Oriented Policing Services).  The Leahy-led initiative provides $7 million for competitive grants to law enforcement agencies in states like Vermont, with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for both heroin and other opioids.  The funds will be used for drug enforcement, including investigations and activities related to the distribution of heroin or the unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids.  Leahy molded the proposal on testimony received at a Judiciary Committee field hearing on community responses to heroin and opioid addiction that he chaired in Rutland, Vt., in March.  The bill also directs the Justice Department to convene a task force including law enforcers, medical and public health experts, and educators to develop a comprehensive, interagency plan to address opioid addiction at the federal level.

The appropriations agreement also includes increase in funding for four other drug prevention programs championed by Leahy.  Leahy worked to secure an additional $6.4 million for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, which help fund and enhance coordinated federal, state and local law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and drug use.  Leahy has also long supported the Drug Free Communities Program, which will receive a $1.5 million dollar increase over last year, to a total of $93.5 million in the comprehensive spending package.  The agreement also includes $12 million for grants to allow states to expand drug treatment services for individuals with heroin or opioid dependence through the Targeted Capacity Expansion Program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

Leahy said the Rural Access to Emergency Devices program also will net an increase over the previous year’s funding, totaling $4.5 million.  Leahy helped to expand the program beyond its original mission of providing AED defibrillators to also offer help to rural communities facing heroin and opiate overdoses.  The $1.1 million increase will provide grants to help local jurisdictions purchase emergency devices and products used to rapidly reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, such as naloxone. 

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