Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is starting the week with praise for the White House's drug czar.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy on Monday formally announced that it would be providing $2.5 million in funding for a new Heroin Response strategy to fight opioid abuse in five identified High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, including Appalachia.
ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli visited with the Kentucky Republican at an April 9 event in the northern part of his home state.
"This is a positive development for Kentucky’s efforts to fight the use of heroin that is hitting the Commonwealth particularly hard," McConnell said in a statement. "I appreciate Director Botticelli contacting me with the good news and I appreciate all he has done to assist in our efforts back home. We must use federal resources to combat this epidemic in the most efficient and effective way possible, and I look forward to our continued efforts."
McConnell has been active on opioid abuse issues in recent years as the scourge has become more and more prevalent in Kentucky, particularly in rural areas. It's a subject where he has found himself partnering with Democrats, including Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. The two lawmakers have led legislation designed to combat heroin withdrawal in newborn babies.
McConnell's office also notes that the Senate's version of the fiscal 2016 spending bill for Health and Human Services includes provisions that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with state governments to respond to opioid withdrawal in children, as well as language supporting the operation of needle exchange programs.
"The new Heroin Response Strategy demonstrates a strong commitment to address the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic as both a public health and a public safety issue. This Administration will continue to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery," Botticelli said in a statement.
The program is designed to team up the drug intelligence and law enforcement functions with public health officials to fight what is formally identified as a growing nationwide heroin epidemic. The $2.5 million for the experiment in areas facing the worst of the crisis is part of a broader $13.4 million announced Monday by the ONDCP.
"The Obama Administration’s drug policy treats the national drug challenge as both a public health and public safety issue. This approach is built upon the latest scientific research demonstrating that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be successfully prevented and treated, and from which one can recover," the administration said Monday. "The Administration has directed Federal agencies to expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use before it begins, empower healthcare workers to intervene early at the first signs of a substance use disorder, expand access to treatment for those who need it, support the millions of Americans in recovery, and pursue 'smart on crime' approaches to drug enforcement."
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