Courtney Questions HHS Secretary Burwell on the Lack of an Emergency Funding Request to Fight Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) questioned the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, about the need for emergency supplemental appropriations to combat the growing prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.
“On page 11 of your testimony, you talk about the heroin/opioid component of the President’s budget request for $1.1 billion dollars, and it’s allocated to help law enforcement, treatment, prevention, and education which is what I am hearing is needed back home in my district,” said Courtney. “28,000 people have lost their lives nationally to accidental overdoses as you pointed out in 2014. That’s a fourteen percent increase from the year before. 2015’s numbers won’t be any better and I know that because in Connecticut we saw a twenty percent increase in 2015 numbers.
“What I think is of concern is you just released new funding through HRSA to community health centers which is much appreciated, but there is no request for emergency funding this year. When you look at Zika [virus] and OCO funding this year, which Chairmen Kline and I will be voting on is billions of dollars in emergency funding for our overseas military operations on the Armed Services Committee, but when you look at that compared to a problem where we are losing 28,000 people per year.
“Senator Shaheen and myself have a bill to just sort of move that push to get resources this year when they are so obviously needed. “
Courtney’s bill, the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (HR 4447), would authorize $600 million dollars in emergency funding for programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to fund initiatives aimed at treating the public health emergency brought on by addiction to opioids, as well as funding law enforcement efforts to end the illegal drug trade. The legislation makes grants available to states to assist in the coordination and improvement of already-existing substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors in the House.