In Bangor, King Holds Eighth Opioid Roundtable Discussion, Underscores Need for Prioritized Funding

King today sent letter to Appropriations Committee urging $6 billion allocated in budget agreement be prioritized to hard hit states like Maine

BANGOR, ME – At Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today hosted his eighth roundtable conversation to discuss strategies to combat the opioid epidemic in Maine. Joined by health care professionals, providers, and community leaders, Senator King outlined a letter he sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee today that underscores the need to prioritize the $6 billion dedicated to the opioid epidemic under the budget agreement to states hard hit by the crisis.

            “I am encouraged by the inclusion of $6 billion in funding devoted to the opioid epidemic for FY’18 and FY’19 in the recently passed budget agreement,” Senator King wrote. “This significant allocation of resources marks an important step forward in our efforts to turn the tide against this crisis. It is also important that the instructions for this funding stipulate that states facing high mortality rates must be prioritized. Therefore, it is imperative that the Appropriations Committee base funding allocations on this factor, and prioritize funding for hard hit, primarily rural, states like Maine, New Hampshire and West Virginia in anticipation of the March omnibus.”

Senator King has been a leading voice in Washington on the immediate need to address the heroin and opioid epidemic and has continually fought to provide adequate funding to fight the crisis, which kills more than one person per day in Maine. He has repeatedly called on Congress and both the Obama and Trump administrations to fund laws and agencies that help address the drug epidemic. This fall, he led a letter to the Trump Administration urging additional funding for the opioid epidemic, and in October he joined with a group of colleagues to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act legislation that would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids. Senator King also recently wrote to President Trump urging him to allow the government to negotiate lower prices for life-saving opioid overdose reversal drugs like Naloxone. 

This marks Senator King’s eighth roundtable discussion that Senator King has convened across the state as part of his effort to tackle the opioid and heroin epidemic. He has previously held discussions in Farmington, ParisPortlandBrewer, Milo and two others in Bangor – each of which focused on a different aspect of the opioid and heroin crisis, and each of which have helped inform his work in Washington. Senator King has introduced and supported several pieces of legislation to help tackle addiction, and continues his push for emergency funding to fight the epidemic.

Text of letter is below and can be read in full HERE.

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Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy,

I am encouraged by the inclusion of $6 billion in funding devoted to the opioid epidemic for FY’18 and FY’19 in the recently passed budget agreement. This significant allocation of resources marks an important step forward in our efforts to turn the tide against this crisis. It is also important that the instructions for this funding stipulate that states facing high mortality rates must be prioritized. Therefore, it is imperative that the Appropriations Committee base funding allocations on this factor, and prioritize funding for hard hit, primarily rural, states like Maine, New Hampshire and West Virginia in anticipation of the March omnibus.

Last year, Maine received just over $2 million for treatment and prevention grants under the 21st Century Cures Act. While the Cures Act funding was a positive first step, it is simply not enough to make significant progress against this scourge. There is more than one overdose death each day in Maine, and roughly 25,000 to 30,000 people in the state seeking treatment but unable to enroll in a program. Recently, I was also disappointed to learn from tribal leaders that they were unable to apply for Cures Act funding. It is critical that these funds be accessible to tribes grappling with the epidemic. After years advocating for significant resources to address opioid addiction, Congress has finally acted, and now it is time for appropriators to provide resources to those who so desperately need it.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. I look forward to working with both of you on this important matter.