Reality check on Trump's opioid announcement
It is far past time for the administration to acknowledge that the opioid crisis is a national emergency that affects every community across the country. This scourge does not discriminate between rich and poor, or Republicans and Democrats, or urban areas and rural ones.
The plan provides no new funding, but attempts to take credit for what Congress provided in the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 115-31). Making the response to the crisis even worse, the President's FY 2018 budget proposes to cut funding for the opioid epidemic by $97 million compared the FY 2017 enacted levels.
Americans suffering from opioid addiction do not want or need empty talk and symbolic action. They need resources for medication-assisted treatment, which is expensive, yet House and Senate Republicans just passed a budget with the President's support that slashes Medicaid by $1 trillion, which would force States to severely reduce coverage and restrict eligibility.
The President touts that this plan allows the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help workers who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis. Yet the President's budget request would slash funding for dislocated workers grants for states and national emergencies by more than 40 percent in FY 2018, a cut of over $500 million, despite his empty promises to help American workers and fight the opioid crisis.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is working to provide the necessary funding to target this crisis by providing roughly $1.4 billion in its FY 2018 spending bills, an increase of more than $137 million above the President's budget request, $42 million above the House, and $41 million above FY 2017 enacted levels. These resources include:
— $174 million for the Justice Department to fight heroin and illegal distribution and use of opioids, which includes $12 million for Anti-Heroin Task Force grants to states. The Trump budget eliminates this program.
— $316 million for Health and Human Services to address the opioid crisis, including $15 million at SAMHSA for a new opioid prevention program. The Trump budget provides nothing for this.
— $500 million for the State Response To The Opioid Abuse Crisis grants provided by the 21st Century Cures Act to help prevent and treat opioid abuse in hundreds of underserved areas around the nation.
— $386 million for Veterans Affairs for treatment and prevention of opioid dependency among veterans.
Patrick Leahy is a United States Senator representing Vermont.
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