by Jennifer Shutt, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
November 1, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s top drug policy expert and Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Wednesday pressed Congress to approve billions in emergency funding to address opioid addiction.
“We still have a ways to go to get it through the heads of people here in Washington about how important it is to vote for the funding — not to give speeches and blow a lot of hot air, but to vote for the damn money,” Casey said on a call with reporters.
The Biden administration last month asked Congress to provide billions in additional spending on domestic issues, including $1.55 billion for State Opioid Response grants that would go towards providing treatment, harm reduction and recovery for opioid addiction. The program is already in existence and would be expanded.
A separate national security supplemental spending request, also sent to Congress last month, would bolster funding for the Department of Homeland Security which the administration says would help reduce the flow of opioids, including fentanyl, into the country.
While Congress has not yet approved that spending, the White House on Wednesday announced how much in funding each state could receive if lawmakers approve legislation. Georgia is line to receive a $26 million grant. But that seems like a long shot at the moment, given Republican opposition to much of the domestic spending proposal.
Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said during the call that reducing the amount of opioids flowing into the country as well as providing treatment to people experiencing addiction isn’t an issue that only affects Democrats or Republicans.
“This is not a red state or a blue state issue,” Gupta said. “And that’s why President Biden’s made addressing the overdose epidemic one of the four pillars of his unity agenda, which focuses on issues where members of both parties can come together to make progress for the American people.”
There are about 300 deaths per day from drug overdoses within the United States, Gupta said.
Approving additional funding isn’t the “end of the road” on addressing opioid addiction, but Congress will need to institute policy changes as well, Casey said.
“The nature of this scourge is that there is no community that’s safe from it, or no community that hasn’t been impacted by it,” Casey said. “I represent a state that has 67 counties, 48 are rural, and yet we’re the fourth-highest recipient of the funding.”
“It just shows you the need out there for quality drug treatment and the dollars at the federal level are essential for a state like ours,” Casey added. “State governments and local communities cannot do this on their own. The federal government’s gotta be in the game and help with this funding.”
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