Maine collected only 40 cents of every $100 allocated by the federal government under a $1 billion program approved in 2016 to assist states trying to deal with the opioid crisis.

For some, including U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine, that doesn’t seem fair.

The 2nd District Republican and other lawmakers are pressing the Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to revise the formula used to distribute the money so that small states with big problems – including Maine, West Virginia and New Hampshire – get more aid, said Brendan Conley, Poliquin’s spokesman.

Maine saw 418 people die of overdoses in 2017, an 11 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. Most were caused by opioids as fentanyl overtook heroin as the drug causing the most deaths. Nationally, there were more than 63,000 drug-related deaths in 2016, the latest year that data was available. That was a 20 percent increase over the previous year.

“Maine has tragically been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic, as so many of our families and communities throughout the state have been hurt by this crisis,” Poliquin said in a prepared statement.

He said the federal government needs “to get support to the states and to local officials,” including the money appropriated under the 21st Century Cures Act during President Obama’s final year in office.

In the first year of the program, Maine got $2 million of more than $485 million handed out under the program. It expects to receive about the same when the second-year distribution is made in the spring. Maine’s allocation almost exactly matches its share of the overall national population.

Though many called for a revised formula, the Trump administration announced in late October it would stick with the existing formula for the second year’s aid distribution.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the formula it used to allocate the funds “takes into account the needs of each jurisdiction, including the number of overdose deaths and people with an unmet need for treatment.” It also said that many states asked for funding levels to remain the same “to ensure continuity of services to people needing treatment.”

Reps. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., and Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., introduced the Federal Opioid Response Fairness Act, a bill that seeks to revise the formula to boost assistance for smaller states. Poliquin is a co-sponsor.

Kuster and Jenkins said the formula used to hand out the money relies too heavily on population rather than taking into account that some states with smaller populations were suffering disproportionately.

Poliquin and the others hope to convince colleagues on the appropriations panel to include the formula changes in a spending bill to fund the government through the rest of the 2018 fiscal year.

Because the measure has to pass, “the lawmakers see this as a conceivable way” to have their formula adjustments implemented, Conley said.

A Senate bill taking aim at the same issue has eight co-sponsors, including Maine independent Sen. Angus King. King is also backing another proposal that would add $10 billion to the effort during the next five years.

“As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities in Maine and across the country, the federal government’s response has not matched the severity of the threat,” King said in a prepared statement.

Poliquin, a founding member of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force in Congress, has come under heavy criticism from Democrats who say he’s done too little to combat the opioid crisis in his home state.

But Poliquin maintains he’s done everything he can to devote resources and attention to the issue.

“As someone who grew up in a health care family with my mother working as a nurse and having lost my own brother to substance abuse, I understand firsthand the seriousness and horror of this epidemic in Maine,” Poliquin said.

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