Click here for footage of Senator Hassan’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today pressed Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on the Trump Administration’s failure to take leadership in calling for more federal funding to combat the fentanyl, heroin and opioid crisis. During the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, Senator Hassan also highlighted the flawed formula used to allocate opioid funding under the 21st Century Cures Act, which leaves hardest-hit states like New Hampshire without adequate federal resources.
Senator Hassan opened by saying, “In New Hampshire, our fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic is referred that way because it is fentanyl that is killing people in my state at one of the highest, if not the highest, per capita death rate in the country. And we have been targeted by fentanyl dealers. I was at a funeral Saturday where a family buried their second daughter from an overdose, a woman who had been in recovery and had been working really hard at it. And this disease is taking all of our efforts and I am very, very grateful to everybody on this committee but I will add my concerns and frustrations to what your heard from Senator Whitehouse [regarding the flawed funding formula].” The Senator added that she has expressed these concerns directly to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
When asked by Senator Hassan if she has had any conversations with Health and Human Services and the White House about the need for additional opioid funding, and why the Administration hasn’t called for additional funding, Dr. McCance-Katz said, “I think that there are many conversations going on about what the needs are and lots of efforts to look at the data that’s available, the information that’s available. It’s my understanding that the administration is very interested in working with congress on developing those ideas that might be something that both the president and congress can agree upon to bring more resources to bear.”
Senator Hassan responded, “this congress has made very clear that we support additional funding to fight this, but we really need a partner in the Administration.”
Senator Hassan noted that the 21st Century Cures Act included $1 billion in additional resources to address the opioid epidemic. But HHS used a flawed formula to allocate the opioid funding from Cures, so many of the hardest-hit states – like New Hampshire – didn’t get adequate resources, and now HHS has refused to update the formula for the second year of funding. Senator Hassan joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and others in introducing the Targeted Opioid Funding Act, which would fix the funding formula. Senator Hassan also helped introduce legislation to invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids.
Senator Hassan also noted that veterans and other populations with post-traumatic stress disorders and co-occurring pain conditions are often prescribed higher doses of opioids, putting them at a greater risk for accidental overdose and deaths, and highlighted the importance of the mental health provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act in terms of helping SAMHSA enhance the availability of evidence-based treatment programs for dual diagnosis of mental health disorders and opioid use disorder.