Kuster and Guinta Bring Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic to Manchester for Field Hearing
Manchester, NH – This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congressman Frank Guinta (NH-01) convened a field hearing of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. Entitled, “Investigating the Heroin Epidemic and its Impacts on the Northeast,” the hearing focused on strategies and best practices for addressing New England’s opioid crisis and ultimately putting an end to the epidemic. Kuster and Guinta, who both represent districts in New Hampshire that have been hit particularly hard by the heroin epidemic, are cofounders and chairs of the Task Force putting on the hearing. They were joined by Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02), whose district has also experienced high overdose rates due to opioid misuse.
“Here in New Hampshire, we have felt the devastating impact of addiction in our communities,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Facing a ‘perfect storm’ of high addiction rates and low access to treatment, we have lost a record number of lives in recent years due to drug overdose. By bringing the Task Force to New Hampshire, I was proud to help provide a unique opportunity for stakeholders from across the region to learn from one another, so that we can best establish comprehensive solutions to the ongoing crisis. We heard about the challenges our communities are facing, as well as some of the most innovative best practices being implemented across the region. I am so grateful to our witnesses, and our audience members, for taking the time to be a part of today’s important conversation. I look forward to bringing this feedback back to Congress, where it will continue to shape my work to strengthen communities in New Hampshire and across the country.”
“When we started planning this Manchester field hearing, we envisioned a big event. I couldn’t be happier so many diverse professionals, as well as concerned Granite Staters, were able to hear a variety of ideas to solve a drug problem affecting nearly all of us,” said Rep. Guinta.
A leading advocate in Washington for additional resources to combat the opioid epidemic, Kuster believes the heroin crisis can only be solved by taking a multi-pronged approach, which requires the coordination of a variety of different stakeholders across New England. Today’s field hearing aimed to bring together participants from every community that is working to fight to crisis in order to coordinate strategy. During the field hearing, Congresswoman Kuster and the participants questioned experts from the law enforcement, treatment, and prevention communities throughout three distinct panels. Witnesses included Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, New England HIDTA Director Jay Fallon, Attorney James Vara, police officers, treatment providers, and advocates. The Representatives’ questions addressed issues surrounding interstate drug trafficking, alternative pain management practices, and preventing the spread of addiction through youth education, among other topics. Participants also discussed the cost effectiveness of drug courts, the challenge of retaining a skilled workforce among treatment providers, and prosecuting drug dealers for overdoses that occur within New Hampshire.
As addiction rates have risen dramatically across the Granite State, Kuster has also helped lead efforts to highlight the need for increased attention on the crisis at the federal level through her work in Congress. Just last week, Kuster joined with the other members of her Task Force to unveil 15 pieces of bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic, including through increased funding, expanded access to treatment, and better coordination among federal agencies. Earlier this year, her Task Force hosted a series of speeches on the House Floor to share personal stories of constituents across the country who have been victims of substance use disorder. In the Granite State, Kuster routinely holds regional briefing’s to hear directly from community members about how she can support on the ground. She has also has attended ride-alongs with law enforcement officials in Nashua, Keene, and Franklin, providing her with a direct look at the challenges facing law enforcement and local communities. These experiences help Kuster continue to lead efforts in Congress to bring an end to opioid abuse in New Hampshire.