Sen. Chris Coons helped secure critical funding in the relevant annual appropriations bill to combat the opioid epidemic in Delaware.

The bill includes $3.7 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, an increase of $145 million. Funds are to be targeted towards improving treatment and prevention efforts, finding alternative pain medication, addressing workforce needs — particularly in rural communities — and improving behavioral health. Of note, the bill includes $200 million for Community Health Centers to address behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse disorders, $120 million for responding to the opioid epidemic in rural communities, $476 million for opioid prevention at the Centers for Disease Control, $500 million for opioid research, and $1.5 billion for SAMHSA’s State Opioid Response Grant. Funding for opioids overall has increased by $3.5 billion, or nearly 1,300 percent, since fiscal 2015. In Delaware, nearly 350 people died from overdoses in 2017, up from 154 in 2016. In 2016, there were 431 reports of substance exposed infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. While heroin use has increased statewide, northern communities have taken the greatest hit from the epidemic as all of the top-five impacted zip codes are in New Castle County.

“One of the most tragic things about the opioid epidemic is that it is both preventable and treatable with the right programs and resources,” said Coons. “Ensuring that prevention programs and resources are available and properly funded for everyone who needs them is a top priority for me, and I’m proud that we were able to include $145 million in increased funding to fight this epidemic in this important appropriations bill today.”

This appropriations bill covers the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies such as the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Coons fought for a $2 billion increase for the NIH, rejecting proposed cuts from the Donald Trump administration. The bill includes increases for Alzheimer’s disease, $425 million; the BRAIN Initiative, $29 million; and Precision Medicine, $86 million. NIH awarded $43.5 million in grants and contracts during fiscal 2017 that directly supported 530 jobs and $124.1 million in economic activity in Delaware.

The bill includes $361.8 million for the Institutional Development Award Program at NIH, an increase of $11.22 million. Nationwide, the IDeA program is supporting workforce development, creating jobs, improving biomedical research infrastructure and generating economic benefits for states that have traditionally received fewer NIH grants.

The bill includes $3.4 billion, a $195 million increase, for mental health treatment, prevention and research to address the opioid crisis and improve school safety. It includes $10 million to improve access to behavioral health services at the pediatric level. In Delaware, 30,000 adults, 9,000 children and teens, and over 82 percent of the state prison population struggle with mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

Coons continues to fight for education and advancement for our country’s teachers and students. The bill increases the maximum Pell grant award to $6,195, an increase of 1.6 percent or $100, to help students keep up with rising costs, limit the need for student loans, and ultimately graduate with less debt. The bill also continues support for year-round Pell.

The bill further continues funding and authority provided in 2017 that modifies eligibility for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program and makes student borrowers eligible for PSLF if they were enrolled in an ineligible repayment plan, but otherwise would have been eligible for PSLF.

Lastly, the bill includes $15.9 billion in Title I grants to local education agencies, a $125 million increase, for federal support for school districts and schools with a high percentage of low-income students to help all students succeed and meet challenging state academic standards.

Coons said he is pleased that the legislation protects the Corporation for National and Community Service funding with $1 billion, or a 1 percent reduction, and rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the agency. The bill reduces the payments to the National Service Trust by $9 million, as a one-time adjustment that reflects CNCS’ lower needs estimate given carryover balances from previous fiscal years. The committee recommendation includes $415 million for AmeriCorps State and National Grants, an increase of $3 million over fiscal 2018.

In 2017, more than 300 Americans of all ages and backgrounds met local needs, strengthened communities, and expanded economic opportunity through national service in Delaware. CNCS invested more than $3.9 million to support cost-effective community solutions, working hand in hand with local partners to empower citizens to solve problems. Service members served at more than 60 locations across Delaware, including schools, food banks, homeless shelters, health clinics, youth centers, veterans’ facilities and other nonprofit and faith-based organizations.