Fighting to support those on the front lines of the opioid crisis

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Every day, communities across New Hampshire grapple with the impacts of the devastating opioid crisis, and the loss of their neighbors – mothers and fathers, daughters and sons.

Almost everyone has a story to share about a family member, a friend, a coworker, or neighbor suffering with a substance use disorder. This crisis does not discriminate; it affects people in every community and from every walk of life.

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, New Hampshire had the third-highest drug overdose death rate in 2016, and more Americans died of drug overdoses last year than in any previous year on record. In large part because of this crisis, American life expectancy has declined for two years in a row – the first time that has happened since the early 1960s.

This report is yet another painful reminder of how much work still needs to be done to save lives and turn the tide of the opioid crisis. When we talk to those on the front lines in New Hampshire, we consistently hear that they need more resources to support them in this fight, which is why we have called for a $25 billion federal investment over two years to go toward treatment, recovery, prevention, and law enforcement efforts. While it will take far more federal funding to meet the needs of those on the ground fighting this epidemic, providing an additional $25 billion now is an important step that we must take.

Make no mistake: This is a national public health emergency, and we still don’t see a robust federal response. The current federal budget negotiations give us an opportunity to right this wrong.

Increased federal resources can help grow innovative, grassroots efforts to address substance misuse. We can help treatment providers like Friendship House in Bethlehem – which relies on federal funding and is the only treatment center within a radius of 65 miles – increase their capacity to serve Granite Staters.

Both Republicans and Democrats agree on strategies to combat this crisis, including many of the ideas that President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction put forward in its final report last year. The Commission recommended that the Administration increase access to treatment and recovery programs, as well as expand the capacity for medication-assisted treatment and first responder access to overdose reversal drugs.

There is bipartisan support for these ideas, but we need a robust federal investment for those on the front lines to make these ideas reality. Unfortunately, President Trump has not taken a leadership role in pushing for additional federal funding, but we are working with our Republican colleagues in the Senate to try to make progress.

While we are fighting for funding, we also need to make sure that it goes to states like New Hampshire that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. That’s why we introduced bipartisan legislation that would prioritize federal funding for states with higher drug overdose death rates and less access to treatment services, including New Hampshire.

We were pleased that just days ago, the President signed a bipartisan bill that we co-sponsored to help stop the flow of illicit drugs, including fentanyl, from crossing the U.S. border by equipping Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with scanning devices and other technologies to detect synthetic opioids.

We continue to stand ready to work with the President and across the aisle in Congress to provide the critical aid that our communities desperately need. We can start by including $25 billion in additional federal funding for those on the front lines and bolster efforts that members of both parties support.

We know that Republicans and Democrats can work together to provide communities with the resources they need to turn the tide of the greatest public health crisis facing our state and our country, and we cannot afford inaction.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is the senior United States Senator from New Hampshire. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the first female U.S. Senator in New Hampshire’s history, was the first female Governor of New Hampshire, and the first woman elected as both Governor and a U.S. Senator.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan is an American attorney and politician who is the junior United States Senatorfrom New Hampshire. A Democrat, Hassan was elected to the Senate in the 2016 election and served as the 81st Governor of New Hampshirefrom 2013 to 2017.