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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Courtney Joins Bipartisan Effort To Oppose Defunding Of The Office Of National Drug Control Policy As Nationwide Opioid Crisis Persists

May 16, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced that he is joining more than 60 of his colleagues on a bipartisan letter to President Donald Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, strongly opposing any funding cut for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). ONDCP is responsible for leading federal drug policy efforts with a focus on innovations in drug abuse prevention, criminal justice, treatment, and recovery.  As reported by the New York Times, the White House has floated a proposal to cut the ONDCP budget by 95 percent. A cut of that scale would mean that critical federal programs such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program (HIDTAP) and the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC) would be eliminated. 

“It hard to imagine why the White House is considering slashing the funding for the primary agency leading anti-drug efforts in the midst of a nationwide drug abuse epidemic,” said Courtney. “I urge the president’s key advisors to meet with local law enforcement officials battling drug abuse on the front lines like I have done in the past to better understand how their departments utilize federal funding in the fight against prescription opioid and heroin abuse. Local police and health professionals on the front lines of this epidemic tell me that the primary reason we are losing the battle against opioids is lack of resources at every level.  The bipartisan letter signed by more than sixty of my colleagues today from both parties demonstrates that the administration will face stiff opposition to any proposed funding cut for drug abuse prevention and treatment.”

ONDCP was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 signed into law by President Ronald Regan. The agency’s primary responsibilities include advising the president on national drug control issues and polices and coordinating federal drug-control activities.  More recently, ONDCP has served one of the lead agencies coordinated the federal response to the opioid crisis and working with stakeholders from across the country to get resources into communities that need it.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was also created under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The federal program provides assistance to federal, state, local law enforcement agencies operating across the country in support of critical anti-drug trafficking operations. Last year, law enforcement agencies in southeastern Connecticut began exploring a HIDTA designation to bring new resources and expanded coordination to the region.

Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC) is a federal grant program that provides funding to local organizations conducting activities to prevent youth substance use.  It was founded under the DFC Act of 1997. DFC supports 10 grantees operating across 11 eastern Connecticut towns including Enfield, Putnam, Chester, Deep River, Essex, Willimantic, Moodus, Madison, Waterford, Hebron, and New London.

In February of 2016, Courtney hosted Michael Botticelli, the Director of ONDCP in eastern Connecticut to learn more about local efforts to combat growing prescription opioid and heroin abuse. The roundtable took place at Lawrence+Memorial hospital in New London where there had been a spike in the number of patients suffering from opioid and heroin overdoses. In September, Courtney hosted ONDCP Chief of Staff Regina Labelle for an additional discussion following up on the director’s visit.

The text of the bipartisan letter is below and online here

 May 16, 2017

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney
Director, Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street Northwest

Washington, District of Columbia 20503

Dear Director Mulvaney:

We are writing to express our concern about reported severe reductions to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the fiscal 2018 budget that would put in jeopardy programs that provide needed assistance to state and local law enforcement and community coalitions to fight the growing opioid epidemic.

As you know, ONDCP has played a critical role in coordinating the nation’s drug control efforts. Since 1988 this office has enjoyed bipartisan support for its mission of protecting public safety and promoting public health. The office’s National Drug Control Strategy has provided an important blueprint to guide and coordinate the efforts of federal, state, and local partners to ensure an evidence-based and accountable strategy to address the devastating impact of drugs on our communities.   

The need for a coordinated, effective, and accountable approach to substance abuse and drug trafficking is greater than ever.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids increased by a factor of 2.8 between 2002 and 2015. The number of heroin deaths increased by a factor of 6.2 in the same period. This epidemic is being felt in communities throughout the United States and the effects have been devastating.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, overseen by ONDCP, has been a critical component of the National Drug Control Strategy. This program aids in the coordination of federal, state, and local drug task forces to disrupt or dismantle drug trafficking organizations. It also engages and provides support to state and federal prosecutors to convict individuals associated with drug trafficking organizations. In recent years, HIDTA seizures have yielded billions of dollars that transnational criminal organizations would have used to reinvest in the illegal drug trade. Instead, this cost-effective program has reinvested proceeds in efforts to further address the causes and effects of substance abuse.

The office’s Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program has been similarly effective.  Its approach to addressing local problems with community-driven solutions has consistently shown reductions in past 30-day use of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. The program is designed with strict accountability provisions to ensure the highest levels of local support in solving the substance abuse crisis each community faces.  By law, there is a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on administrative and overhead expenses, which ensures that the maximum amount of funding goes to DFC coalitions that have the power to reduce youth substance use in their own communities. Coalitions are required to be in existence and fully functioning for a minimum of six months before they are eligible to apply, and they must have baseline data to show that they have full knowledge of local drug issues, as well as matching federal funding with dollar-for-dollar local funds.  

For almost two decades, ONDCP has had a critical role in ensuring the nation’s drug policy is effective, accountable, and evidence-based. The Office and the programs it supports are uniquely positioned to address the causes and effects of the current opioid crisis with proven strategies and broad reach. For these important programs to remain effective, we believe they must continue to be funded fully and coordinated effectively. We are gravely concerned that any interruption would exacerbate the crises in our communities and we remain committed in working together to reverse the damaging effects that opioids and other drugs have had on American families. 

We respectfully request clarification on the Administration’s intended actions to ensure the continuity of HIDTA and DFC and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

REP. JOE COURTNEY

REP. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS                                                       

REP. BILL JOHNSON

REP. SANDER LEVIN                                                                    

REP. BRIAN K. FITZPATRICK

REP. DANNY K. DAVIS                    

REP. DWIGHT EVANS

REP. TIM RYAN                                                                            

REP. PAUL TONKO

REP. FILEMON VELA                                                                   

REP. BRAD R. WENSTRUP

REP. RICK LARSEN                                                                       

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN                                                              

REP. PETER A. DeFAZIO

REP. DAVID P. ROE                                                                     

REP. JOHN J. FASO

REP. SUZANNE BONAMICI                                                        

REP. STEVE COHEN

REP. WM. LACY CLAY                                                                 

REP. CAROL SHEA-PORTER

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY                                                         

REP. BOBBY L. RUSH

REP. DONALD M. PAYNE, JR.                                                    

REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON

REP. FRANK PALLONE, JR.                                                         

REP. BRENDA L. LAWRENCE

REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN                                          

REP. DAVID B. McKINLEY

REP. ANDRÉ CARSON                                                                 

REP. TERRI A. SEWELL    

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI                                                  

REP. DAVID P. JOYCE

REP. LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD                                  

REP. DORIS MATSUI

PETER WELCH                                                               

REP. ANTHONY G. BROWN

REP. STEVE STIVERS                                                                    

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL

REP. DAVID N. CICILLINE                                            

REP. ADAM SMITH

REP. BARBARA LEE                                                                     

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ

REP. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM                                             

REP. VAL BUTLER DEMINGS

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY                                 

REP. TIM WALBERG

REP. JIMMY PANETTA                                                                

REP. DANIEL M. DONOVAN, JR.

REP. JOHN KATKO                                                                       

REP. ROTHFUS                                               

REP. JAMIE RASKIN                                                                     

REP. NIKI TSONGAS                                                      

REP. RYAN A. COSTELLO                                             

REP. JOHN A. YARMUTH                              

REP. JAMES P. McGOVERN                                                       

REP. EVAN H. JENKINS

REP. MARCY KAPTUR                                                                 

REP. DEREK KILMER                                                     

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY                                                                    

REP. JOHN K. DELANEY                                                              

REP. LOUISE McINTOSH SLAUGHTER

REP. CHELLIE PINGREE                                                               

REP. CHERI BUSTOS

REP. JOSEPH P. KENNEDY, III                                                   

REP. ANN M. KUSTER                                                  

REP. A. DONALD McEACHIN                       

  

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