September 18, 2018

Senate Clears Funding Bill with Wins for Rhode Island

Compromise bill includes Whitehouse victories for key programs to fight the opioid crisis, aid public service student borrowers, and boost medical research

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cheered passage of legislation to fund federal defense, labor, health, and education agencies that includes several important victories for Rhode Island.  On the heels of the Senate’s passage of major opioids legislation yesterday, the bill includes funding to fight opioid addiction, help for borrowers working in public service to repay college loans, and support for lifesaving medical research at Rhode Island hospitals and universities.  The bill also includes Whitehouse’s bipartisan amendment to help Congress speed the release of important health information technology rules.

“In Rhode Island, we are fighting hard against the opioid crisis, which this bill will support by funding vital addiction and recovery programs.  We are contributing to major breakthroughs in medical research, which this bill will spur by funding research centers of excellence like those established at institutions like Rhode Island Hospital and URI.  And we are fighting to protect workers, like the public servants who are eligible for this bill’s increase in funding for student loan forgiveness,” said Whitehouse.  “This bill is a win for Rhode Island.”

Included in the bill is funding for a range of programs important for Rhode Island.

The funding measure includes $3.8 billion to fight the opioid crisis nationwide, an increase of $206 million from the last fiscal year.  A portion of the funding will go to programs created through Whitehouse’s bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, like the Building Communities of Recovery Program, First Responder Training Grants, and treatment for pregnant and postpartum women.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island had the ninth highest drug overdose death rate of any state in the nation in 2016.

It includes another tranche of $350 million in temporary loan forgiveness for public service student borrowers through a program based on Whitehouse legislation that became law this year.  The money will help relieve the financial burden for eligible Rhode Islanders working in public service fields, like teachers, social workers, and military personnel.  Many such workers sought to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program but were nonetheless left with massive loan balances they thought would be forgiven.  Rhode Islanders are encouraged to apply for the funding and can access eligibility information by visiting Whitehouse’s website.

It includes a $2 billion increase for research through the National Institutes of Health.  Included is $429 million for the BRAIN Initiative and $361 million for Institutional Development Awards, which support Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence at a number of Rhode Island institutions, including the recently announced Rhode Island Hospital Center on Opioids and Overdose.

It includes a $10 million increase in funding for children’s teaching hospitals, including Bradley Hospital in East Providence, through the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) Program.  Whitehouse has fought tirelessly to fund high-quality medical education for residents training at children’s hospitals through the program.

Whitehouse also succeed in including his bipartisan amendment with Senator Cassidy requiring the Health and Human Services Department to update Congress on a long-overdue set of rules to help limit blocking of important electronic health information.

This bill’s passage follows a string of legislative successes for Whitehouse during the 115th Congress, including:

  • $30 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund to support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards.
  • Bipartisan legislation to spur investment in next-generation carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies, putting a dollar value on the reducing carbon pollution driving climate change.
  • Whitehouse’s legislation to extend permanently vital foreclosure protection for servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
  • Bipartisan legislation to increase collaboration between private industry, universities, and national laboratories in developing and bringing to market advanced nuclear technologies.
  • Bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), making important improvements to the way we treat young people in our criminal justice system.
  • Bipartisan legislation to address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans, shorelines, and inland waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe.
  • Bipartisan legislation to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records.
  • Bipartisan legislation to encourage governments to help tech companies comply with global criminal investigations. 
  • Bipartisan legislation to help encourage growth and job creation in the emerging kelp farming industry.

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