West Virginia's Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire recently joined in calling on the National Guard to change the way it apportions funds to address drug abuse epidemics in U.S. states.
The two senators sent a letter to Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank Grass requesting that the National Guard change the methodology it uses to apportion its Counterdrug Program funds by considering the number of fatalities from drug overdoses in a state rather than total population.
West Virginia and New Hampshire are among the states with the highest rates of drug overdose fatalities in the nation. National Guard Counterdrug Program analysts work with local law enforcement in support of the latter's counter-narcotics activities.
“The National Guard supports our law enforcement as they work diligently to keep drugs out of our communities,¨ Capito told The West Virginia Record. ¨In West Virginia, the Counterdrug Task Force has helped shutter illicit drug networks and provided invaluable training for law enforcement officers.
¨With West Virginia leading the nation in drug-related overdose deaths, it is my hope that an updated funding model for the National Guard’s Counterdrug Program will better reflect the severity of our state’s situation.”
The West Virginia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force assisted 37 law enforcement agencies in operations that resulted in the seizure of illicit drugs and assets valued at more than $1 billion in 2015. It also provided training to more than 400 law enforcement officers, the senators point out in their letter.
In New Hampshire, the Counterdrug Task Force assisted with 238 individual narcotics cases that resulted in 606 arrests and the seizure of illicit drugs, property, weapons and cash valued at $7.85 million last year.
More than half the total amount of drugs seized in the two states were opioids or opiates, such as fentanyl and heroin.
Opioid abuse and addiction has become a priority for Capito as the problem has grown to what's considered epidemic proportions in West Virginia. Capito and Shaheen in May introduced legislation to extend National Guard Counterdrug Program funding from one to three years.
¨In 2014, driven largely by addiction to opioids — namely, prescription painkillers and heroin — a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, or about 125 Americans a day,¨ the senators wrote in their letter.
Capito recently joined a bipartisan group of U.S. senators in urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to change existing policy by permitting reimbursements to qualified providers of outpatient and alternative drug abuse treatment and care.
The Threat-Based Resource Model (TBRM) the National Guard uses to allocate Counterdrug Program funds is based on a state's overall population. Changing TBRM to include per capita drug overdose fatality rates would result in more funds being allocated to states in which rates are higher, which, in turn, would improve the Counterdrug Program's effectiveness, according to Capito and Shaheen.
Both New Hampshire and West Virginia were in the bottom one-third of states receiving National Guard Counterdrug Program funds in fiscal year 2015 despite having per capita drug overdose rates that put them in the top five among U.S. states and territories.