Tester Introduces Bill to Help Tribes Combat Drug Abuse & Addiction

The Opioid Response Enhancement Act Will Provide Funding for Addiction Treatment in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate) – As part of his ongoing effort to combat drug abuse and addiction across Indian Country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester-a senior member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee-has introduced the Opioid Response Enhancement Act, which will invest at least $1 billion in helping tribes combat the opioid crisis over the next five years.

“If we’re going to get a grip on the drug and opioid crisis we must make sure Tribal governments have the tools they need to help prevent and treat addiction,” Tester said. “Indian Country has been hit particularly hard by this crisis, which is why we’ve introduced this bill, so tribes can apply for critical resources to help combat drug addiction and get these resources where they need to be.”

Tester’s bill reauthorizes the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis (STR) Grant Program, which was established by the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act-a bill Tester helped pass in 2016. This legislation provided $1 billion in funding for STR Grants through 2018. After hearing about the success Montana’s STR Grant recipients have had over the last year, Tester introduced the Opioid Response Enhancement Act to reauthorize funding for the next five years.

However, up until now only states have been eligible to apply for STR Grant funding. That’s why Tester’s Opioid Response Enhancement Act will not only allow tribes to apply directly for these grants, but also set aside at least $1 billion specifically for tribal entities. The bill will also give tribes flexibility in how they use this funding, allowing parts of the STR grant to go towards combatting drugs other than opioids, like meth, to ensure folks on the ground can get these resources to the people and places that need them most.

“Jon Tester’s bill will provide much needed resources directly to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to help fight this widespread problem,” said Ronald Trahan, Chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. “Our people are thankful for the support in this important effort. Tester’s bill creates parity between states and Tribes and reminds us again that Tester is a champion for Indian country on many issues including our biggest challenges.”

“The Blackfeet tribe looks forward with abundant hope and anticipation for the passage of this important and timely legislation,” said Timothy Davis, a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. “The successful passage of this bill will provide our tribe with the ability to align all resources and aggressively fight this battle head on as we strive to create a better future for our people. A significant push to assure positive outcomes will be the construction and staffing of a medical detox and substance abuse treatment facility here in Blackfeet country. This urgent need cannot be overstated. It is essential we realize the fruits of this legislation if we want to survive.”

Tester has been one of the Senate’s most vocal advocates for addiction treatment. In May, he raised serious alarms about the White House’s plan to gut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has been instrumental in combatting meth and opioid addiction in Montana.

A copy of the Opioid Response Enhancement Act is available HERE.