By July 14, 2017 Read More →

House panel restores drug enforcement funds

By TAYLOR STUCK

The Herald-Dispatch

WASHINGTON —  The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted to restore the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program funding for the next fiscal year, a program that was zeroed out in the White House administration’s proposed budget.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. The purpose of the program is to reduce drug trafficking and production.

Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Putnam, Kanawha, Boone, Logan, Wyoming, Mingo, McDowell, Mercer and Raleigh counties, along with a few northern counties, are part of Appalachian HIDTA, which covers parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The funds help pay for police overtime, intelligence sharing, and drug treatment and prevention.

HIDTA will receive $254 million in the House budget, matching the previous year’s funding.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va. and a member of the Appropriations Committee, said it took a lot of hard work and “polite arm twisting” to get the funding.

“Actually, in recent years we have been able to add money to HIDTA each year up to this level,” Jenkins said. “I knew we had a real challenge because the administration proposed essentially eliminating this initiative in their draft funding blueprint, but we succeeded in making the case that HIDTA is effective.”

Jenkins said the loss of HIDTA funding would have been a step back in combating the opioid epidemic.

“The loss of HIDTA funding would have meant fewer police officers being out there battling the drug crisis,” he said. “There would have been less support in the recovery community and fewer dollars to help a newborn child who was exposed to drugs during infancy to be lovingly cared for after birth to give them a healthy start at life.”

The committee also fully funded the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act for the next fiscal year. The funds will support drug courts, mental health courts, grants for residential treatment programs in state prisons, veteran treatment courts, drug monitoring programs and school safety initiatives.

The budget will still need to be approved by the House of Representatives.

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