Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined in a letter led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), urging Senate leaders to prioritize robust, direct funding to address the ongoing opioid epidemic in Native American communities. The senators pointed to the steep increase in opioid overdoses on reservations and the pressing need for strengthened federal support to address long-term recovery efforts and prevent further deaths. The senators also addressed the opioid epidemic’s strain on tribal resources and the need for increased resources to support families and children in affected communities.
“The impact of the opioid crisis extends beyond the addicted individual. Many tribes have dedicated their own resources to improve access to treatment and recovery services for their members, but they continue to struggle to find further resources to address the secondary impacts of addiction in their communities—especially, the impacts on children and families of individuals fighting addiction,” the senators wrote. “As more children are removed from their homes due to their parents’ addiction issues, foster care systems and kinship care networks are strained. Mental and behavioral health services for these children are critical to help them process the trauma and related challenges. Funding to address the crisis must take a holistic approach and support these families and communities to put them on a path to healing and improve outcomes.”
The senators also participated in a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing on combating the opioid addiction epidemic in Indian Country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest overdose death rates of any group in 2015 and the largest percentage change in the number of opioid-related deaths over time. Click here to watch today’s hearing on challenges addressing opioid abuse in Indian Country.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Click here to read the letter.