As part of the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department’s “Overdose Prevention Strategy,” the agency is doling out nearly $30 million, some of the monies from which are slated for “safe smoking kits/supplies,” according to the HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The Washington Free Beacon reports the $30 million grant program, beginning in May, will give money to nonprofits and local governments to help addicts use drugs safely. The grant, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, includes “safe smoking kits.”
According to the Beacon, an HHS spokesperson said the kits will include pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, or other illicit substances.
The “Fiscal Year 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant” states that funding will enhance overdose prevention activities and strengthen harm reduction programs. Grantees will also provide overdose prevention education to their target populations about the use of substances such as opioids and synthetic analogs. The program also seeks to establish “processes, protocols, and mechanisms for referral to appropriate treatment and recovery support services.”
The grant additionally specifies that its funds may be used to help address the stigma surrounding substance use.
Under the “Federal Award Information” of the document, the grant anticipated total available funding could be up to $9,750,000 per year or $29,250,000 over three years. The estimated number of awards is twenty-five, and the estimated award amount is as much as $400,000 per year per award for up to three years.
“The Biden administration is going to be sending crack pipes and meth pipes, targeting minority communities in this country, underserved communities,” said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Twitter. “There is no end in sight for this lunacy.”
Brian Bledsoe, a precinct chair in Tarrant County, agrees with Rubio.
“It is absurd that the Biden administration would rather enable addicts than help them and [do it] with taxpayer’s money!” he told The Dallas Express. “Are the polls so bad for him that he’s going to bribe addicts for votes?”
Bledsoe further inquired, “How is this ‘Advancing Racial Equity,’ aiding in the destruction of the ‘underserved communities’ that Biden and Democrats always claim to be helping by filling the streets with taxpayer-funded crack pipes?”
“Democrats prove once again that for all their claims of compassion and equity, all they want is create more dependents on the state. There was an analogy equating welfare state to drug addiction — nowadays they are literally using drugs to make people more addicted to, not only whatever drug they’re addicted to, but [to being] further dependent on government while killing any chance of recovery and self reliance,” he continued.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra originally announced the proposed HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy in October 2021, explaining that it aims to improve access to a comprehensive range of care and services both for people who use substances that can cause overdose and their families. This new strategy focuses on the various substances that can result in overdose and the different treatment options for substance use disorders.
“Our new HHS overdose prevention strategy is clear: harm reduction services are critical to keeping people alive,” Becerra told reporters from Fierce Healthcare this past Wednesday while announcing the grant funding.
According to the text of the grant, one of its goals is to control the spread of infectious diseases and their consequences for individuals who have or are at risk of developing substance use disorders.
“The distribution of free ‘safe injection kits’ and/or ‘safe smoking kits’ (providing all the necessary clean, safe equipment to inject or smoke drugs), has also been a strategy implemented to reduce the chance of transmitting infections but has not been studied in rigorous fashion even outside the pharmacy context,” according to the ASCP Journal.
“Guess this is Biden’s gift to the Black community for Black History Month,” Bledsoe said.
On February 9, HHS Secretary Bercerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta released the following statement:
“HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives. The Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities. We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner.”
In a White House press briefing the same day, Press Secretary Jen Psaki further elaborated on the statement.
When asked if the crack pipes were never a part of the kit or if they removed in response to criticisms, Psaki clarified: “They were never a part of the kit; it was inaccurate reporting. And we wanted to put out information to make that clear.”
She specified: “A safe smoking kit may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
“I would note that what we’re really talking about here is steps that we’re taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic, which is killing tens of thousands — if not more — Americans every single day, week, month of the year.”
The program “is focused on harm reduction strategies, including prioritizing the use of fentanyl test strips and clean syringes,” Psaki explained. “And all of these harm reduction services that will be supported by these programs are intended to save lives from an epidemic that we know is devastating to communities across the country.”
When asked what she would say to critics concerned that the Biden administration is encouraging illegal drug use, she responded that she felt it was important to remember “that we are losing an American life every five minutes to overdose,” saying, “We don’t have time for political games.”
She continued: “The President is focused on saving lives through harm reduction programs. That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. They work in red states, and they work in blue states. We know they save lives; they help connect people to treatment and recovery. And they were endorsed this week by a bipartisan commission co-chaired by Senator Tom Cotton that examines steps we must take to address the devastating toll of overdoses.” She also mentioned that Senator Ted Cruz supported taking steps to reduce the opioid crisis.
In summation on the topic, she declared: “So, what I would say is: This is not a game. This is not a political game. This is an epidemic that is taking the life … of an American every five minutes, and we need to work in a bipartisan way to address it.”
Note: This article was updated on February 9 at 5:19 p.m. to include the February 9 statements from Health and Human Services and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.