Senators push for $600M in emergency funds for drug 'epidemic'

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Sens. Angus KingAngus KingSenators roll out bipartisan gun proposal Dem Senate campaign chair endorses Clinton Obama nominates CIA watchdog to fill long vacancy MORE (I-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenGOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Overnight Defense: Senate rejects new FBI surveillance powers | Brexit vote looms | Push for new military aid deal with Israel Senators push vote to condemn Russia's 'reckless actions' MORE (D-N.H.) are doubling down on their push to get Congress to pass an emergency spending bill to combat heroin and opioid abuse. 

"People in Maine and around the country are losing their lives, communities are being torn apart and first responders and healthcare providers are being pushed to the brink," King said during a press conference in Maine on Friday, adding that lawmakers "must act quickly and in a comprehensive way."

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Shaheen echoed his comments, saying, “Congress needs to treat the heroin epidemic like the national public health emergency that it is.”

The New Hampshire Democrat introduced legislation late last year that would provide $600 million in supplemental funding for programs within the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Their bill would include $225 million for the DOJ to boost spending for state and local initiatives on drug treatment and law enforcement programs, as well as additional money to help drug task forces handle high rates of heroin abuse. 

It would give $375 million to HHS including funding for substance abuse and prescription drug overdose prevention, research on drug addiction and programs targeting underage drinking and drug abuse among those aged 12 to 25.

Their press conference comes days after Shaheen sent a letter to Obama, calling on him to increase funding to address substance abuse as part of his fiscal year 2017 budget, which will be released next month.

King sent a similar letter to Obama last month.

The push for new funding also comes amid what the administration is calling an “epidemic” on drug overdosing.

More people died from overdose deaths in 2014 than any other year on record, according to a report released last month from the Centers for Disease Control.

Many of those overdoses involved opioids, including heroin or prescription drugs.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested earlier this week that the Senate could soon take up legislation.

“Certainly the heroin epidemic we will tackle, and tackle soon, in the Senate. It’s a scourge all across the country,” he told Yahoo News. “People running for president up in New Hampshire tell me … it’s the No. 1 issue.” 

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