February 22, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and eighteen of his Senate colleagues are urging President Biden to request robust funding and increase the federal investment in our nation’s response to the ongoing opioid and substance use disorder (SUD) epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the opioid and SUD prevention, treatment and recovery landscape in this country. The nature of this pandemic has increased social isolation and stress, while decreasing access to treatment and harm reduction resources, with significant repercussions for individuals facing addiction. Reported overdoses and deaths have spiked over the past year – including over 500 in Maine in 2020 – even as vital federal resources were delayed despite the scale of need U.S. communities continue to experience.
In their letter, the Senators request that President Biden prioritize funding for federal grants and programs aimed at opioid and SUD prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery in his upcoming budget proposal to Congress. The Senators also request increased support for the addiction treatment provider workforce, including through existing loan repayment and training grant programs. Finally, the Senators urge the President to request robust funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) ongoing work to support and expand essential services for overdose prevention, including demonstrations for harm reduction services, as well as support for ongoing efforts at the state, local, Tribal and territorial level.
In the letter to President Biden, the Senators write: “Despite the strong federal investment in the past few years, the opioid and SUD epidemic continues to evolve and ravage communities across the country, and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate this crisis. We urge you to support robust additional funding to fully support the needs of providers and state, local, Tribal and territorial governments as they work to prevent and treat substance use disorders during this challenging time. It is essential that we commit to allocating resources to a range of evidence-based public health programs, and that we fund these efforts at a level that appropriately reflects the magnitude of this crisis.”
Senator King has made combating the opioid crisis one of his top priorities in Washington, both before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and since its initial spread across the country. Since the pandemic has separated Americans from their loved ones and made it more difficult to access resources, Senator King has worked to connect with Maine people virtually and raise awareness about resources available to for support. In September 2020, he introduced a bipartisan resolution to officially recognize September as “National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month'' and focused his September podcast on recovery from SUDs amid the pandemic. In May 2020, he participated in a video teleconference with Maine Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services to connect with their staff that work with Maine’s behavioral health organizations and help those coping with substance use disorders and mental health challenges. To encourage additional supports, Senators King and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) led a group of 20 Senators in a letter to Senate leadership to call for increased investments in mental and behavioral health in future coronavirus relief legislation. Senator King voted for the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act in 2018, sweeping opioid legislation which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and included several King-backed provisions to help Maine families and communities affected by the opioid crisis. The legislation was the result of months of bipartisan hearings and discussions on the opioid crisis.
The full letter is available here.