DeLauro statement at hearing on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2017 budget request
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for holding this important hearing this morning on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2017 budget request.
Welcome Ms. Enomoto. I look forward to talking to you today about the critical programs under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s purview, as well as your budget proposal for next year.
I want to start by thanking Chairman Cole. Last year, we were able to make important investments in the Labor-HHS bill together, including an increase of $160 million for SAMHSA.
We were able to secure a $50 million dollar increase to the Mental Health Block Grant and a $38 million dollar increase to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program for 2016. Many families without health coverage—or whose insurance will not cover mental health or recovery programs—rely on services funded by these grants. We also more than doubled funding for Medication-Assisted Treatment for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction through SAMHSA’s Targeted Capacity Expansion program. But I worry that we will not be able to make these kinds of increases again without a stronger allocation.
Last year’s Omnibus moved the federal budget in the right direction, raising the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending and increasing much-needed funding for programs that support our economy and the quality of life of citizens across the country.
Chairman Cole has heard me say this before, but I am troubled that the Labor-HHS bill received only a fraction of its fair share of the $66 billion increase provided by last year’s budget deal. While the other non-defense subcommittees received an average increase of 6.9 percent last year, the Labor-HHS bill increased by only 3.4 percent. This subcommittee represents 32% of non-defense discretionary spending—our allocation should be proportional to that figure. I hope to see that realized this year.
SAMHSA’s programs aim to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on our communities, through prevention, treatment, and support during recovery.
These programs are more important now than ever, as we face a public health crisis in opioid abuse. The rise in opioid abuse across the country is sounding off alarms that we must heed. We face an opioid epidemic that requires a response from all levels of government.
Every day, over 100 Americans die from drug overdoses, outnumbering deaths from gunshot wounds or vehicle crashes. The rise in opioid abuse across the country is very distressing. Of the over 47,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014, heroin was a factor in 10,574 deaths, and opioids were involved in 20,808—and sadly, opioid deaths are likely undercounted. Thousands more people are addicted or in recovery.
We must also expand access to naloxone in the community. I have urged the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify naloxone from a prescription to an over the counter medication, so that more have access to this life saving drug.
Supporting SAMHSA’s work is essential to the wellbeing of our citizens. We cannot afford to wait to act when addiction affects the lives of so many of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and our community members. We must invest in programs that put Americans on the road to recovery.
That brings me to the topic of today’s hearing: the SAMHSA budget request for fiscal year 2017.
Ms. Enomoto, there is a lot of good in this budget proposal.
I especially want to highlight the proposed increases to the Presidents’ Now Is The Time initiative, which began in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The budget request includes an increase of $7 million for Project Aware, which helps to identify high school kids with mental illness and refer them to treatment, and it includes a request of $10 million for a new program to train Peer Professionals.
On the substance abuse side, I was glad to see that the request included an increase of $460 million for opioid use disorder treatment. Treatment of opioid abuse is critical—however, again, I am wary that all the funding comes on the mandatory side of the budget, which is very unlikely to happen.
That is why I will be introducing a bill that would authorize an additional $1 billion in discretionary dollars per year toward substance abuse, to support community clinics and expand access to treatment for individuals with substance abuse disorders. Treatment seems to have the biggest shortages throughout the country.
It is the responsibility of this Committee to fund SAMHSA programs. We need to increase this subcommittee’s allocation to support mental health and to address the opioid epidemic in this country, rather than rely on mandatory funding that will not materialize. That is why the subcommittee allocations that will be released in the next few weeks will be so important. I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us in urging an increase for Labor-HHS in fiscal year 2017.
Thank you. I look forward to the discussion.