Lawmakers Beg For Help With Drug Crisis

Washington state tribal officials are pushing for a measure that would provide millions of cash to tribal nations to fight the alarming rise in mortality caused by opioids.  The Office of the Governor reports that the opioid overdose death rate among Alaska Natives and Native Americans and in Washington State is four times the average for the state.

Tribes would get $7.75 million per year, or 20% of the monies put into an opioid payout account last fiscal year, whichever is higher, as a result of the opioid epidemic, according to the proposed proposal. Included in the account is the $518 million that the state received in 2022 as a settlement from the three biggest opioid distributors in the country.

Republican bill sponsor and state senator John Braun said the plan would make sure that tribes get a significant amount of the $518 million  that the three biggest opioid distributors in the country paid out to combat the opioid epidemic. In order to address the issue, the funds will be used to assist the establishment and growth of treatment and recovery programs, among other services. With the tragic increase in opioid overdoses in recent years, the law has garnered support from both parties.

Tony Hillaire, chairman of the Lummi Nation in Washington, was one of four tribal officials who spoke in favor of the measure, saying that the funding will be crucial in aiding the battle against the problem.  Hillaire is requesting that the financing not be conditional on the tribes being obligated to report on the problem, since this would impose an unnecessary burden on them.

Democrat Governor Jay Inslee likewise demanded emergency funds. He suggested allocating funds from his proposed supplementary budget for 2024 to a program that educates indigenous communities about opioids, where to receive treatment, and how to deliver the drug naloxone in the event of an overdose.

The opioid antagonist medicine naloxone may quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It helps people whose respiration has decreased or ceased because of an opioid overdose go back to normal by binding to their opioid receptors and preventing the effects of additional opioids.