On September 4, Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) announced that the United States Department of Health and Human Services has released a new round of State Opioid Response Grants that includes $35,879,685.00 of congressionally-appropriated funding for the State of Massachusetts. The state and local governments will use these funds to expand access to treatment and support near real-time overdose data.
Bedford’s Chief of Police and Director of Health shared appreciative comments:
“This additional funding from the federal government will help the Town of Bedford as we work to provide treatment and resources to those struggling with substance use disorders,” Police Chief Robert Bongiorno said. “We know that the opioid epidemic is something we need to respond to proactively and we will continue to work with our local and regional partners to best ensure our community members are equipped with everything they need to recover.”
And Heidi Porter, Bedford’s Director of Public Health, added, ” The news of available funding to enable better access to treatment for opioid addiction is encouraging. From our ongoing mental health services survey, the Board of Health is learning that over 75% of the respondents who sought access to substance use/detox services found them not or only somewhat accessible. Providing funding for more access to treatment services as well as campaigns to reduce the stigma around substance use disorder so folks will seek treatment would be beneficial to residents of Bedford and our Commonwealth as a whole.”
“It’s hard to talk about addiction,” Congressman Moulton said, “but it touches almost everybody in our country–whether we know someone who is wrestling with addiction, or we know someone who has lost a loved one to an overdose,”
Moulton added, “I’m going to keep fighting for better mental health care, and more resources like these so we can confront this public health emergency.”
Congressman Moulton’s Commitment to Mental Health Issues
Moulton, who is Vice Chair of the House Budget Committee, is a national leader on mental health issues. He has used this platform to advocate for funding to address the state’s opioid epidemic. Moulton co-authored multiple letters of support for the funding released today.
According to WBUR, overdose deaths have fallen 11 percent in the first six months of 2019, but fentanyl is present in 92 percent of the overdose deaths in Massachusetts. The funds released today will help the state track data like this in real time, in addition to funding direct support for state and local governments.
Moulton is the co-author of the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, a bill that would allow the United States to target the producers of fentanyl with sanctions. The Senate included a version of the bill in their version of the National Defense Authorization Act, meaning the bill is on the verge of becoming law. Members of the House and Senate will meet to write a final draft of the NDAA later this month. Moulton sits on the committee that writes the NDAA, the House Armed Services Committee, and has advocated for the bill’s inclusion in the final draft.
Moulton and his partner on the bill, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) wrote an op-ed in The Hill calling for the bill’s passage before the president started a trade war with China. China, the leading exporter of fentanyl is using its failure to crackdown on domestic fentanyl enforcement as a negotiating tool. The country’s tactics contribute to American overdose deaths. As Moulton noted in the op-ed, “China has an especially poor record of taking on fentanyl producers. Between 2015 and 2016, American authorities intercepted 1,072 shipments of Chinese fentanyl before they could reach our streets. In the same time period, China stopped just four.”
Moulton also recently introduced a bill to create a national three-digit hotline for mental health emergencies. The National Suicide Hotline Act, would create 9-8-8 as a national, three digit number for any kind of mental health emergency. For example, a caller wrestling with addiction could call 9-8-8 to be connected to addiction treatment resources. The bill gained more than 50 cosponsors over Congress’s August recess.
Opioid overdoses have killed more Americans than the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, combined. Veterans are twice as likely as nonveterans to die from an accidental overdose. Moulton has introduced a package of three bills that would allow the VA to study and discuss cannabis use as an alternative to opioid treatments. The bills would also prevent veterans who use cannabis in the states where it is legal from losing their VA benefits for using cannabis.