PROVIDENCE – Sens. Jack F. Reed, D-R.I., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., led an effort to successfully change the grant formula for state opioid-mitigation funding at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, increasing Rhode Island’s share of the grant by $10.4 million to $12.6 million.
The increased funding was passed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, also known as the Omnibus Appropriations law. All four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of the Omnibus, which included a $3.3 billion boost this year for opioid funding, with $142 million for states with the highest mortality rates from overdoses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island had the ninth-highest drug-overdose death rate in the nation in 2016. According to the R.I. Department of Health, 323 Rhode Islanders died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017.
Reed and Whitehouse worked with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in the effort to successfully change the grant formula by setting aside funding specifically for states hardest hit by the opioid crisis. Their bipartisan bill, the Targeted Opioid Funding Act, provisions of which were added to the Omnibus, prioritizes federal funding for states that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, including Rhode Island, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
The bill also calls for SAMHSA, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services, to take into account mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services when allocating State Targeted Response Opioid Crisis Grants, rather than making grant determinations for states based on population size.
“In Rhode Island, we face one of the highest rates of opioid deaths in the country. The federal government has now taken that into account in providing resources for those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Whitehouse, who co-authored the landmark bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, the sweeping legislation guiding the federal response to the opioid epidemic in 2016.
“Stopping this public health crisis requires a wide-ranging, multipronged approach, and I was proud to join my delegation colleagues to fight for this funding,” said Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I.
“Right now, opioid overdoses are killing more Americans than car crashes. This is a public health epidemic that demands an aggressive, comprehensive response. That’s why it’s so important that Rhode Island will be getting more than $10 million in additional federal funding to end this crisis,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.