NH, WV senators say opiate aid should be based on deaths

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -
In the battle against opiate addiction, New Hampshire and West Virginia are taking the most casualties when you consider the size of their populations. Mountain and Granite State lawmakers are pushing a bill to ensure their states receive a bigger share of federal aid.

“This about making sure we get federal dollars to the front-lines where they are needed the most,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The federal government gave out nearly half-a-billion dollars to states earlier this year; the White House divvied it up primarily by population. Hassan and West Virginia’s Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) said it should breakdown based on the proportion of the state’s population opiates are killing.

“It makes sense to us,” said Capito, “if we can solve this problem in our states, maybe the other states won’t have as difficult a problem as we do right now.”

The proposal may struggle to gain traction in Congress without the White House on-board. Asked about the idea, Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short talked instead about billions in additional cash the President put on the table while trying to sell Obamacare repeal. “We’ve been very supportive of finding additional relief,” he said, “it’s been a priority for the president.”

The country’s most-senior senator, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), used a committee hearing on the opiate crisis to criticize the White House response. He said the president’s choice to slash cash for opiate treatment in his original proposed budget is an indication of where the president stands.

“Talk is cheap, money is effective,” he said.

Many lawmakers like Leahy are still considering whether to support the proposal to change how funds are divvied up. Only 10 of the more than 400 federal lawmakers in DC are already signed on to the Senate bill and its companion in the House.

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) wrote that companion bill. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and Rep. Evan McKinley (R-WV) are cosponsors. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) will soon add his name to the bill’s official list of supporters, according to a spokesperson.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.