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Higgins, Poloncarz applaud $1.1 billion federal commitment to fighting nation's opioid epidemic

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Wed, Feb 3rd 2016 10:35 am

Congressman Brian Higgins and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz welcomed the announcement President Barack Obama is proposing $1.1 billion in new funding to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic in the U.S.

"For families struggling with addiction, this help can't come soon enough," Higgins said. "This substantial and multifaceted approach tackles reduction of the illegal supply chain while expanding treatment so we can help more people reach successful recovery and see fewer lives lost."

Poloncarz added, "The epidemic of opioid abuse that we are seeing in Erie County is reflected across the country, and the time is now for direct action to confront this issue in an expansive and community-oriented way. I commend President Obama's proposal, which augments initiatives already under way in Erie County and brings additional resources to the people who need them most."

Under the White House proposal, the president's budget will include a Department of Health and Human Services pilot project for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid abuse treatment. This pilot project coincides with the goals included in the TREAT Act (H.R. 2536), introduced by Higgins last year, legislation that helps those suffering from addiction by enhancing medication-assisted treatment and access to qualified providers.

Earlier this week, Higgins and other House members representing upstate New York wrote to the National Drug Control Policy director inviting the White House to host one of its upcoming community forums on opioid abuse in upstate New York.

In January, Poloncarz issued an executive order establishing an opioid epidemic task force. The group held its first meeting this week with more than 110 representatives from health, human services, law enforcement, private and government sectors in attendance.

Deaths due to opioid and heroin abuse have reached more than 28,000 nationwide and 200 in Erie County alone.

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