Proposed Bill Would Prioritize SAMHSA Funding Based On Opioid Epidemic

United States senators from New Hampshire and West Virginia, and from both sides of the political aisle, have recently introduced a bill which would prioritize federal funding based upon which states have been affected most by the opioid epidemic that has been sweeping across our nation. The bill would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to consider new factors when determining how to allocate grant money to states. These new factors include mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services, and would do away with making the determination based on the number of people within each state with substance abuse disorders.

It is noteworthy that this bill, called the Targeted Opioid Formula Act, was introduced by the U.S. senators from New Hampshire and West Virginia because these two states currently have the highest per capita mortality rates from opioid overdoses and fentanyl-related deaths in the nation.

The grants from which these funds would be disbursed are from the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in 2016 by President Obama. The formula for funding currently used was established by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees SAMHSA, while President Obama was in office. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a bill sponsor and Democrat from New Hampshire, stated during the bill’s introduction that “federal resources should be appropriately prioritized for communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” and that “New Hampshire continues to set overdose death records, yet is not getting a proportional amount of federal support.” The bill’s introduction comes just two weeks after the Trump administration announced that the current formula for distributing grant funds will not be altered for the time being.

Since the bill has just recently been introduced, only time will tell what kind of traction it picks up in Congress. However, the opioid epidemic is without a doubt an immense issue currently facing our nation, and a problem for which there have been few signs of positive change. The bill has the potential to affect all states that receive funding from SAMHSA as well, since the bill’s passage could result in substantial changes to each state’s allocation of federal funds. This bill, along with the Federal Opioid Response Fairness Act – a House bill aimed at similar change – are likely to continue to garner more national attention as they head to committees for debate and markup.