Sen. Chris Coons helped secure $3.7 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, a $145 million funding increase, in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill passed Aug. 23 by the full Senate.
“I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance an appropriations bill that ensures funding for medical research, increases opportunities for students to access higher education, and supports national service programs,” said Coons. “This bill also seeks to reverse the devastating opioid epidemic that resulted in the deaths of 350 Delawareans in 2017 alone, and it invests in critical prevention and treatment programs. I’m encouraged that we were able to work together in a bipartisan way to ensure funding for programs that impact citizens throughout Delaware and across the country.”
Funds are targeted toward improving treatment and prevention efforts; finding alternative pain medication; addressing workforce needs, particularly in rural communities; and improving behavioral health. 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 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response Grant.
Coons’ efforts also resulted in a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, rejecting proposed cuts from the 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 federal funding that Sen. Coons is fighting for is crucial to our ongoing work on the ground in Delaware to identify, assess and treat people with substance use disorder, as well as the underlying mental health issues that so many people are dealing with,” said Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Cabinet Secretary Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. “In addition, the funding for prevention work is critical in helping us to reduce the overall impact of addiction across our state.”
The bill includes $361.8 million for the Institutional Development Award Program at NIH, an increase of $11.22 million. In Delaware and across the country, 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 also 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 more than 82 percent of the state prison population struggle with mental illness or substance abuse disorder.
Coons is continuing to fight for education and advancement for the country’s teachers and students. The bill increases the maximum Pell grant award to $6,195, an increase of 1.6 percent or $100 per person. This will help students keep up with rising costs, limit the need for student loans and graduate with less debt. The bill also continues support for year-round Pell grants and maintains critical increases to campus-based aid programs, TRIO and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
As co-chair of the National Service Congressional Caucus, Coons said he is pleased that the legislation protects the Corporation for National and Community Service funding with a $1 billion appropriation and rejects the administration’s proposal to eliminate the agency. The bill also includes $415 million for AmeriCorps State and National Grants, an increase of $3 million during fiscal 2018.