Heroin Epidemic Lays Waste New England States.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)  continued to raise concerns this week at the federal level about New Hampshire’s heroin epidemic, urging Attorney General Eric Holder to use an “all hands on deck” approach to combat the crisis and calling on Senate appropriators to prioritize funding that supports drug-trafficking enforcement efforts.

Ayotte joined several Senators from both parties in a letter to Attorney General Holder that called for the Department of Justice to leverage the best criminal justice and public health practices currently available to address heroin and prescription opioid abuse.

“Addiction to prescription opioids and heroin has become one of our nation’s most challenging public health issues, affecting our neighborhoods and communities in ways far worse than anyone might have imagined,” the Senators wrote. “To effectively address the problem of heroin and opioid dependence in our country, an ‘all hands on deck’ approach that recognizes the value of prevention and education, law enforcement, overdose prevention and the utilization of all opioid addiction treatments is required.”

In a separate letter today to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services, Ayotte highlighted the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program — a critical tool to help disrupt drug-trafficking operations in New England and across the country.

“Today, my home state of New Hampshire is facing a heroin addiction crisis that is taking lives and ruining families. The HIDTA Program continues to be a critical tool in helping to disrupt national and regional drug trafficking operations, and we continue to rely on their expertise and experience to fight alarming regional heroin use trends in New England,” Ayotte wrote. 

She continued, “The regional collaborative approach allowed by [New England HIDTA] is critical to combating this program in New Hampshire, as law enforcement reports that much of the supply of heroin in New Hampshire passes through Connecticut and Massachusetts before reaching end-users in New Hampshire communities.”

As New Hampshire attorney general from 2004 to 2009, Ayotte led the New Hampshire Drug Task Force and worked closely with state and local law enforcement to boost efforts to combat drug abuse, drug-trafficking and other drug-related crimes. She has been a strong advocate for Byrne JAG which helps augment crime-fighting and drug treatment efforts at the state and local levels .

At two recent hearings on Capitol Hill, Ayotte questioned Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Defense Department officials about efforts among federal agencies and state and local law enforcement agencies to curb drug-trafficking.

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Heitkamp Calls on America to Give Native American Families a Helping Hand.

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Senator’s Legislation would Create a Commission on Native Children; Senator Dorgan to Speak about Importance of Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, will participate in a Senate hearing on her bill to address the challenges facing Native children and offer real solutions to address them.

Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, Founder and Chairman of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, will testify at the hearing at the request of Heitkamp, on the importance of her bill to improve the lives of Native American children by addressing the economic, education, crime, and health care disparities that Native children too often face. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm ET.

“Focusing on improving the lives of Native children will allow us to better understand and solve problems Native American families face every single day throughout North Dakota,” said Heitkamp. “Far too often, we worry about specific programs and not enough about the outcomes. This Commission needs to be looked at from a holistic standpoint because children are a critical component of every part of Indian Country. I’m working to make sure Native children aren’t left behind because when they’re given an opportunity to really thrive, they are able to make tremendous achievements for themselves, their families, and communities. That’s why I’m pushing for this bill and that’s why I pushed for this hearing on it.”

“Senator Heitkamp is a longtime champion for Indian Country and I am proud of her for taking a leadership role in making American Indian children a top priority,” said Dorgan. “When I chaired the Indian Affairs Committee in the Senate, I knew that Indian children were the most at-risk population in America. I created the Center for Native American Youth to shine a light on the difficulties they face to find solutions to the challenges of teen suicide, inadequate health care, and education opportunities, and more. Senator Heitkamp’s legislation is a very positive and welcome step towards ensuring that Indian children will not be overlooked by policy-makers anymore.”

Her bill would create the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, which would conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native children – such as high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make recommendations on how to make sure Native children are better taken care of and given the opportunities to thrive.

In November 2013, Dorgan penned an op-ed in the Fargo Forum strongly supporting Heitkamp’s bill. On the day she introduced her bill, Heitkamp spoke on the Senate Floor about the importance of this legislation to address some of the most pressing challenges for Native children.

The Commission on Native Children would conduct a comprehensive study on the programs, grants, and supports available for Native children, both at government agencies and on the ground in Native communities, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wrap-around services to Native children.  Then, the 11 member Commission would issue a report to address a series of challenges currently facing Native children.  A Native Children Subcommittee would also provide advice to the Commission.  The Commission’s report would address how to achieve better use of existing resources, increased coordination, measurable outcomes, stronger data, stronger private sector partnerships, and implementation of best practices.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) helped introduce the bipartisan legislation which currently has 15 additional bipartisan cosponsors, including Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.