The Biden administration’s “harm reduction” program funds a Texas organization that distributes crack pipes, possibly violating state law, according to an investigation by The Dallas Express.
Since last year, the El Paso Alliance has received nearly $800,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the nation’s first federal harm reduction program. The group distributes “smoke kits” to drug addicts and told a reporter from The Dallas Express that such kits include a “small, cylinder glass.”
The distribution and possession of drug paraphernalia in Texas is banned under Health and Safety Code 481.002(17).
“A person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally uses or possesses with intent to use drug paraphernalia … to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this chapter,” the law reads.
The HHS harm reduction program listed “smoking kits” as equipment eligible for purchase with federal grants. However, top HHS officials and then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously denied reports that such kits would include crack pipes, as The Dallas Express covered at the time.
An official for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which oversees the HHS program, said the agency works with individual grant recipients to ensure funds are not used on pipes.
“SAMHSA sends Terms and Conditions language to all harm reduction grant recipients: ‘Award funds shall not be used, directly or indirectly, to purchase or promote the use of drug paraphernalia, including pipes/pipettes in safer smoking kits,’” a SAMHSA spokesperson told The Dallas Express. “Grant recipients are also reminded that any organization using SAMHSA dollars must comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.”
“All grant recipients submit an annual budget that includes line items for all supplies intended to be purchased with SAMHSA funds,” the spokesperson continued. “In some cases, grant recipients may receive funding from non-federal sources that do not have the same restrictions as federal funding. SAMHSA does not oversee the use of these funds. However, SAMHSA grantees must operate within the bounds of federal, state, and local laws.”
The El Paso Alliance did not respond to a request for comment on whether it uses federal dollars to purchase its smoking kits.
The El Paso Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on whether it provides an exception to the law for the El Paso Alliance.
Harm reduction groups aim to reduce overdoses by distributing naloxone and clean drug paraphernalia to drug addicts. Syringe exchange programs are a popular method of harm reduction. Such programs operate in 43 states, including Texas, according to health research nonprofit KFF.
Harm reduction groups occasionally distribute safe smoking kits, which can include a pipe, stem, mouthpiece, aluminum foil, and wipes meant to prevent cuts and infections, as demonstrated by The Washington Free Beacon.
The El Paso Alliance is just the latest recipient of an HHS harm reduction grant that has been shown to distribute crack pipes. Two groups in Maine that received grants distribute crack pipes, according to The Washington Free Beacon. The same goes for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, as Fox News reported, and a group in New York City on which the Daily Caller reported.
The El Paso Alliance functions as a nonprofit to “inform and provide individuals with the harm reduction tools and resources necessary to minimize self harm, enhance recovery, and improve quality of life.” This includes services such as healthcare, child care, disease testing, and the distribution of fentanyl test strips, Narcan, smoke kits, and condoms.
HHS’ harm reduction program includes two other grant recipients in Texas.
The group People with Ideas of Love, Liberty, Acceptance, and Respect has received nearly $800,000 since last year in grants. It plans to “develop a naloxone distribution program … [with] a harm reduction vending machine at their primary location.”
Based in Laredo, the group did not respond to an inquiry over what other harm-reduction supplies would be offered in its vending machine.
The other Texas recipient of nearly $800,000 in taxpayer money is the Bexar County Hospital District (dba University Health), which told The Dallas Express it does not distribute any drug paraphernalia. The health system said HHS’ harm reduction grant facilitated the distribution of 1,700 doses of naloxone.