New Hampshire Hoping Boost in Opioid Funds in Federal Spending Deal Hits Home

Mar 23, 2018

These vials show three of the dangerous drugs and opioids contributing to the health crisis in New Hampshire. (NHPR file photo)
Credit Paige Sutherland / NHPR

New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is cheering a significant increase in federal funds for fighting the opioid epidemic included in the federal spending deal released Wednesday. The draft bill contains an additional $3 billion over 2017 funding levels to fight opioid and mental health crises nationally.

“These federal dollars will deliver the material assistance that is desperately needed for prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement and first responders,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen in a statement Thursday.  

The deal reflects an agreement reached by a group of bipartisan senators, including Shaheen and Senator Maggie Hassan, in February, securing the additional opioid funds.

It remains unclear, though, exactly how much New Hampshire stands to gain from the boost.

Shaheen and Hassan had advocated for a change in the formula used to allocate major federal substance abuse grants to states. They argued the existing formula unfairly favored high population states over smaller states that have a high level of drug abuse per capita. Of the approximately $500 million distributed nationally last year, New Hampshire received only $3 million.

The spending bill does not include a change to that formula, but does specifically set aside about $142 million for states like New Hampshire with high overdose rates. How that $142 million will be distributed, and among how many states, is yet to be determined. 

“I will work with Senator Shaheen and the entire delegation to ensure that the Trump Administration provides New Hampshire with a fair share of the funds for states that have been hardest-hit by the opioid crisis,” said Hassan in a statement.  

The agreement also includes funding increases for research on opioid addiction, prescription drug monitoring programs, substance abuse and mental health efforts in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and local law enforcement programs to fight the crisis.

“This is an important step,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster in a statement. “I'll continue to push for long term funding to ensure the treatment community, healthcare providers, and law enforcement have the certainty they need.”

Her tone was echoed by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. "The $142 million set-aside for the hardest-hit states will help New Hampshire," she said. "But we will still need the Trump administration to direct more resources to our state."