LACONIA, N.H. (AP) _ Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen called Monday for a bipartisan effort to combat the growing problem of heroin and opiate abuse, then criticized Republicans in Concord and Washington for what the two Democrats said was a failure to adequately fund drug treatment programs.
In Laconia, Hassan and Shaheen said it will take bipartisan cooperation among local, state and federal officials to combat the growing substance abuse problem.
Hassan said state Republicans had failed to offer a counter budget proposal after she called for adding $5.9 million more to substance abuse funding above what a legislative conference committe had recommended.
“My compromise budget proposal would also ensure that the funding is available for our bipartisan health care expansion program if and when the legislature reauthorizes is it,” Hassan said.
Her offer, made after she vetoed a two-year, $11.3 billion spending plan approved by the legislature, would move up to January benefits for Medicaid patients who get substance abuse treatment, continue funding a state “drug czar” position and move forward with a drug court in Manchester.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley called Hassan’s assertion “just patently and totally wrong.”
“We passed a budget that had a 75 percent increase in substance abuse treatment and we’re proud of that,” said Bradley, of Wolfeboro. “The governor vetoed it. It is totally and completely the governor’s fault.”
Bradley said the legislature will offer a budget counterproposal when Hassan details any overspending in the 2014-15 budget.
Shaheen called the heroin and opiate abuse problem the most urgent public health challenge facing the state.
“It’s imperative that we have bipartisan cooperation in Concord and Washington to make the resources available for programs tackling the heroin crisis,” she said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte put out a statement highlighting the efforts she’s made in the effort to stem drug abuse, including reintroducing legislation to expand the availability of the anti-overdose drug naloxone to first responders and law enforcement. The legislation also provided resources to identify and treat people in jail who need substance abuse treatment and expanded drug take-back sites, among other things.
“The Senate unanimously passed Senator Ayotte’s bipartisan amendment to the budget which called for providing funding for addressing the heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic,” said Ayotte spokeswoman Lauren Zelt.