By Ryan Belmore
Today, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and David Cicilline (D-RI) announced in a press release a substantial increase in federal funding has been made available for Rhode Island’s fight against opioid addiction.
According to a press release issues on Tuesday, Rhode Island’s share from a grant program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will rise from $2.1 million last year to $12.55 million as a result of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, also known as the Omnibus Appropriations law. All four members of the delegation voted for the Omnibus, which included a $3.3 billion boost this year for opioid funding, with $142 million set aside specifically for states with the highest mortality rates from overdoses.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island had the ninth highest drug overdose death rate of any state in the nation in 2016.
In the Senate, Reed and Whitehouse, along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) led 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, 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 called for SAMHSA, which operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 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.
“This additional federal funding is much needed and long overdue. We worked hard to change the formula to ensure the money was going where it is most needed and that Rhode Island gets its fair share of federal assistance to help save lives, improve treatment, and address this public health crisis,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies in the press release, who helped lead efforts to increase opioid funding in the Omnibus Appropriations law. “These additional federal funds will help Rhode Island tackle opioid addiction, enhance substance abuse prevention programs, and support law enforcement efforts in vulnerable communities.”
“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. That’s why I was proud to join my colleagues in the delegation to push for this change and deliver this increased funding for our opioid fight,” said Senator Whitehouse in the release, who co-authored the landmark bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the sweeping legislation guiding the federal response to the opioid epidemic, which was signed into law in 2016.
“This significant federal funding increase will provide Rhode Island with much-needed support in our efforts to battle the opioid overdose epidemic in our state,” said Congressman Langevin in the press release. “Stopping this public health crisis requires a wide-ranging, multi-pronged approach, and I was proud to join my delegation colleagues to fight for this funding. I am also pleased that today the House is taking up my bill to create a joint task force to combat opioid trafficking, which would prevent dangerous drugs like fentanyl from flowing into our communities in the first place. “
“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 Congressman Cicilline in the release. “There is much more work to be done, but I know that our entire Congressional delegation will continue fighting for the resources we need.”
The funding comes via SAMSHA’s State Opioid Response Grants program, which will help states increase access to medication-assisted treatment and reduce opioid overdose related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment, and recovery activities for those battling opioid addiction.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, 323 Rhode Islanders died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017.