On March 7 Senator Elizabeth Warren along with nine other senators went to bat for tribal communities that are in desperate need of resources to combat the opioid crisis. The ten senators submitted a letter to the Committee on Appropriations urging them to provide “robust direct funding to tribal communities to address the disparate impacts of the opioid crisis in Indian Country. The funding would be part of the federal governments FY 2018 budget.
The senators are asking Congress to undertake significant investments in programs that aid in the prevention, treatment and recovery from opioid misuse in Native communities and strengthen the federal government’s commitment to fulfilling its trust responsibilities.
While the country is well aware of the impacts of the opioid epidemic, many are still unaware of the disproportionate impact of the opioid epidemic on Native Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015, Native Americans had the highest overdose death rates compared to all other races.
A roundtable called by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last November revealed that many of the factors exacerbating the opioid epidemic in Indian country are rooted in longstanding health challenges and failed Congressional attempts to include Native communities in prevention and treatment efforts.
The letter, which was a bipartisan effort, is requesting an investment of an additional $6 billion to combat the opioid epidemic over the next two years. An investment of this size will provide an opportunity to mitigate the unique challenges faced by tribes in effectively responding to addiction.
Senator Warren along with Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Catherine Cortez Masto, Jon Tester, Kamala Harris, Tina Smith, Maria Cantwell and Tammy Baldwin understand that the impact of the opioid crisis extends beyond the addicted individual. They also understand that many tribes have followed a model similar to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, dedicating their own resources to improve access to treatment and recovery services for their members.
It’s why the funding letter urges that funding is allocated directly to tribes to address opioid and other substance use challenges.