In a bipartisan letter, the lawmakers emphasized the importance of Byrne JAG funding to the work of the 16 active multi-jurisdictional task forces (MJTFs) in Washington state.

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program is the leading source of federal justice funding for states, tribes and local governments supporting a range of criminal legal system improvement and community advancement initiatives, including MJTFs.

In the letter, lawmakers make note of the fact that Washington state is seeing an exponential rise in opioid overdose deaths, and law enforcement are finding more and more of the illicit substances on the streets.

For example, in February, monthly drug seizures at the U.S.-Canada border hit a three-year high with more than 27,600 pounds of illegal drugs confiscated. Also, a total of 559,396 fentanyl pills were seized by the Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force in 2022; significantly higher from 142,877 pills in 2021 and 20,050 pills in 2020.

Washington District 5 Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and 4th District Congressman Dan Newhouse joined six members of the Washington congressional delegation in calling on Governor Jay Inslee to provide answers about the state’s long-term plan to reduce critical Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funding for regional drug task forces that help local communities fight the opioid epidemic.

The bipartisan letter was also signed by Reps. Rick Larsen (WA-02), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Kim Schrier (WA-08) and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10).

In a excerpt from the letter, lawmakers wrote, “For the last seventeen years, Byrne JAG has been a stable source of funding for MJTFs in Washington, enabling them to carry out operations, purchase new equipment and hire personnel. Eliminating Byrne JAG funding for MJTFs — without first guaranteeing an alternative funding source — could prove disastrous for Washington.”

According tot he letter, Washington MJTFs need more, not fewer, resources to overcome unprecedented challenges, including record-breaking drug trafficking across the U.S.-Canada border.

For the full letter, click here.

For more on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, click here.

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