March 20, 2017

ICYMI: Seacoast Online Highlights Senator Hassan’s Continued Efforts to Combat Substance Misuse in New Hampshire

WASHINGTON – Over the weekend, Seacoast Online highlighted Senator Hassan’s continued efforts at the federal level to combat substance misuse in New Hampshire and help save lives.

The article highlighted Senator Hassan’s first official speech on the Senate floor last week, where she focused on the urgent need for continued bipartisan federal action to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

Senator Hassan also underscored her concerns with Trumpcare and the harmful impact it will have on the health and well-being of Granite Staters, including those who rely on substance misuse treatment services covered under Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.

Click here for the full story or see below for excerpts:

When U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan addressed the Senate floor for her maiden speech, she chose the heroin/opioid crisis as her topic.

…In a passionate speech, she focused almost solely on addiction/recovery services in the state and talked a great deal about what she believes needs to happen to further address the opioid crisis.

Topping her list are concerns that what is now being called Trumpcare will end the Medicaid expansion achieved this past year, and that many people who now have health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act will lose coverage and their access to seek services to battle addictions.

She talked about how the substance abuse problem does not discriminate, affecting people from all walks of life.

…To help make her point, Hassan highlighted stories of real people in New Hampshire who have been affected by the opioid crisis, both those who fell prey to addiction, and those of the families who have been dealing with a person with a substance abuse disorder, or who are grieving the loss of a loved one because of addiction.

"These stories are critical in breaking down the stigma of addiction and pushing for solutions," Hassan said. 

The courage of families who are speaking out is laudable, but Hassan said it is not enough.

…While there has been bipartisan support for combating the opioid crisis in the Senate, Hassan said the work must continue, at all levels of government.

Hassan spoke about the efforts she and those in New Hampshire have already taken to address the crisis, including working with the National Governors Association to pass emergency federal funding to support states' efforts, securing $5 million additional state money to provide treatment, prevention, recovery and housing programs.

"We worked together to provide law enforcement with additional resources through a program called operation Granite Hammer; we expanded drug courts throughout New Hampshire, and we worked to crack down on fentanyl," said Hassan. "To prevent the overprescribing of opioids, we took steps to improve provider training and update the rules for prescribers."

"And, critically, Republicans and Democrats put our differences aside and came together to pass – and reauthorize – the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, also known as Medicaid expansion. We were able take this essential step forward to continue strengthening our families, our businesses and our economy."

Hassan said Medicaid expansion is providing quality, affordable health coverage to more than 50,000 Granite Staters, including coverage for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment. "And thousands of people have received addiction treatment after gaining coverage through the Medicaid expansion program in New Hampshire," Hassan said. "What is clear, and what I hear from people in recovery centers across my state, is that lives are being changed – and saved – because of Medicaid expansion."

…Hassan said both Democrats and Republicans across the country have said how much of a difference Medicaid expansion has made to their states.

"As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has found, 2.8 million people with substance use disorders, including 220,000 with opioid disorders, have coverage under the Affordable Care Act," Hassan said. "That is real and essential progress, but we know that we have far more work to do. I am committed to working with members of both parties here in the Senate to continue building on these efforts."

Hassan said the legislation introduced last week for Trumpcare will negatively affect efforts to combat substance misuse because it will end Medicaid expansion.

…Hassan said substance use disorder treatment providers say that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need.

"To pull the rug out from millions of people across the country who are seeking a lifeline from the throes of addiction is unconscionable," Hassan said.

Additionally, Hassan said Trumpcare would affect countless others across New Hampshire and the United States – from individuals who buy their own insurance who would see their premiums skyrocket, to older Americans who would now be forced to pay an age tax, and women and families who would be hurt by the provision defunding Planned Parenthood.

"We know that there is more work to do to improve and build on the Affordable Care Act, but this Trumpcare bill is not the answer," Hassan said. "I am working with my colleagues to fight against this legislation."

Hassan is working on legislation to help combat the substance misuse crisis.

"I joined Senator (Rob) Portman in introducing the STOP Act – bipartisan legislation that would help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States," Hassan said.

…Hassan has also joined a bipartisan group led by Senator Amy Klobuchar to introduce the SALTS Act, which would empower law enforcement to crack down on synthetic substances and better prosecute drug traffickers.

"I joined Senators (Joe) Manchin, Shaheen and several of our colleagues to re-introduce the LifeBOAT Act – which would establish a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance misuse treatment," Hassan said.

"These are essential steps that we need to take now, and I will also continue evaluating additional legislative steps to support treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts."

…"I am going to continue to fight to make progress. And I am willing to work with anyone to help those struggling get the treatment that they need and to support all of the dedicated professionals on the front lines of battling this crisis."