Courtney seeking emergency money to fight opioid addiction, overdoses

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District

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U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District

Washington – Days after President Obama said he’d ask Congress to boost funds to fight opioid and heroin addiction, Rep. Joe Courtney introduced a bill that would seek $600 million in emergency funds to pay for both drug enforcement and treatment.

“As communities across the country continue to grapple with rising prescription drug and heroin abuse, we need to provide them with additional resources,” said Courtney, D-2nd District.

Courtney’s district includes New London, where a surge of 21 overdoses from Jan. 27 to Tuesday has caused one death.

The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, is co-sponsored by Reps. John Larson, D-1st District, and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and several other House members, many from New England, where opioid addiction is considered a crisis.

Overdoses of opioid prescription drugs and heroin claimed more than 400 lives lin Connecticut last year.

Courtney’s bill is a companion to a measure introduced in the Senate last year by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Shaheen’s bill has not moved forward, but it was considered in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month. The problem of opioid addiction has become a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill.

After meeting with President Obama earlier this week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said fighting opioid addiction was one of the few areas on which the men could find common ground.

Obama said he will ask for $1.1 billion to fight opioid addiction in the budget he submits to Congress Tuesday.

Courtney said, “It is reassuring that the White House is making this issue a top funding priority for next year, however, it is important to note that Senator Shaheen and my legislation, if passed, would make emergency funds available immediately.”

The emergency funds would be split between policing grants and money for treatment programs and new treatment centers.

“Our bill takes an important step forward in preventing opioid addiction by helping law enforcement end the illegal drug trade and expanding access to critical addiction treatment programs, such as substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and prescription drug overdose prevention programs,” Esty said.

James Wardwell, New Britain’s chief of police, said increased funding “will be used to help remove this poison from our streets.”

“The threat of heroin and other opioids is very real,” he said. “We see this on the front lines every day.”

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