Hold the applause on federal money

There was a lot of applause and back-slapping by elected officials when the White House announced Monday that it had appropriated money to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic across the country.

Forgive us for sounding ungrateful for the whopping $13.4 million when we say, big whoop.

To be sure, 13 million bucks is better than nothing, but it seems like a token gesture, at best, so those elected leaders can say they are doing something – anything – to battle a drug crisis that is claiming more and more lives across the state, region and country.

The money will be directed to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, including $5 million earmarked for efforts that target heroin trafficking. Another $2.5 million will be split among five HIDTA regions, including New England, to combat heroin addiction. Another $4 million will be spent on prevention programs in 18 regions, according to a statement released by the White House Monday.

New Hampshire’s senators agreed the money will be a good thing for the state.

"Fighting New Hampshire’s growing heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemics will take a coordinated effort among federal, state, and local partners, and today’s announcement is welcome news for New Hampshire and other New England states that are confronting this crisis," U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said. "The HIDTA program is a critical tool for enhancing regional collaboration, especially since heroin and fentanyl are trafficked across state lines. I’m particularly glad that the New England HIDTA will also be focusing funds on prevention efforts. We must take a multi-pronged approach in this fight, and prevention is a key part of that."

"This new strategy reflects the complexity and national scope of the heroin crisis. The Heroin Response Strategy announced today will increase coordination between local law enforcement and public health workers in New Hampshire with their counterparts across the country," U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said. "By equipping public safety officials, public health officials and communities with the most up-to-date and relevant information to tackle the heroin crisis, we can better keep pace with this evolving threat to our state’s health and well-being."

Gov. Maggie Hassan released a statement too.

The program sets up two regional coordinators – one to handle health-related matters, another in charge of programs related to law enforcement. There’s a recipe for a turf battle if ever we’ve seen one.

The money will be used to build a 15-state network of law enforcement officers and "leverage these connections" to improve information-gathering capacity.

Overall there’s a lot of talk about collaboration and creating "linkages" and "increasing efficacy" in the announcement made this week.

Meanwhile, addicts who would like to get treatment still get put on waiting lists.

According to reports, New Hampshire’s share of this money will be about $265,000.

Doesn’t seem quite so worthy of widespread applause when you look at it in that context.

Sure, it’s good to have the federal government’s help and we don’t mean to sound like ingrates. But we shouldn’t pretend, either, that this is anything more than a very small Band-aid on a very large wound.