Op-ed: Portman calls White House budget cuts to drug prevention 'reckless,' 'senseless'

The first proposed budget under the Trump Administration includes the near-elimination of the federal Office of Drug Control Policy. The office administers the Drug-Free Communities program, a nationwide drug prevention effort. In response, Sen. Rob Portman co-wrote the following letter to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.

Sen. Rob Portman is a Republican from Terrace Park. This letter was co-signed by Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat from Michigan.

As the original authors who created the Drug-Free Communities program in 1997, we are deeply troubled by the Administration's proposal to cut all funding for the program in fiscal year 2018.  Amidst the most severe opioid epidemic in decades, it is reckless and senseless to eliminate an effective, evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention program.

Portman

In March, over 100 bipartisan members of Congress in the House, representing over 70 million Americans, urged appropriators to fully fund the Drug-Free Communities program for fiscal 2018.  The Senate is currently circulating a similar letter that enjoys wide bipartisan support year-after-year.

Based on evidence and research, we know that drug-free coalitions work effectively to reduce substance abuse in youths in over 600 communities across the nation, and have provided support to 4.4 million middle school and 6.3 million high school students since inception. 

We support funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a whole, but want to highlight specifically the positive success we’ve seen from the Drug-Free Communities Act.

The Drug-Free Community coalitions are deeply rooted in local communities.  Each coalition engages twelve sectors who are key local stakeholders, including local law enforcement, faith-based organizations, schools, health care professionals, parents, students, and volunteer groups who are committed to their communities.  This emphasis allows DFC coalitions to respond at the local level to different emerging drug trends such as heroin, meth, K2, spice, and other synthetic drugs.

WCPO note: Since 1998, 24 coalitions in Greater Cincinnati have received Drug-Free Communities funding, bringing in a total of more than $18 million in federal funding for drug and alcohol prevention programs to the region, said Mary Haag, CEO of one of those coalitions, Prevention First. 

Independent research confirms that in communities with drug-free coalitions, past 30-day use of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs have declined by 32 percent, 38 percent, and 21 percent, respectively.  That is why so many bipartisan members of Congress support Drug-Free Communities.

The Drug-Free Communities program is designed to be accountable.  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 drug-free coalitions who 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.  They must also 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.

Finally, the coalitions are required to go through a year-long training academy to make sure they have the skills necessary to not only effectively reduce their youth drug use rates, but also to plan, implement, and evaluate their efforts so they can achieve results.

We specifically included these strict accountability provisions in the law to ensure the highest levels of local support in solving substance abuse crisis each community faces.

The Drug-Free Communities program is a proven, evidence-based, and accountable program that reduces substance abuse among youths. 

The opioid epidemic is a serious problem that affects millions of young people and their families.  We urge you to put their interest first, and fully fund the program for fiscal 2018.

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