On Tuesday, Fox News reported that Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) had sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra regarding the Harm Reduction Program and reports that, as a part of the program, taxpayer money would pay to furnish drug addicts with paraphernalia, including crack pipes and clean syringes. Her letter spoke of “grave concerns” regarding the program, which the Department of Health and Human Services says is an attempt to “reduce the risk of infection among drug users.”
On December 8, 2021, SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, issued a “Notice of Funding” for the 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant. The National Harm Reduction Coalition defines harm reduction as “a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.” Harm reduction programs are nothing new, and a quick search across the internet shows that harm reduction is a program promoted by various addiction assistance programs and agencies. However, critics say that harm reduction programs actually promote drug use rather than promote safety in those battling addictions. Even the American Addiction Centers website says, “the idea behind harm reduction is not to necessarily eliminate substance abuse but to diminish its harmful effects.”
Harm reduction programs exist for a wide variety of substance abuse issues, from alcohol abuse to opioids to heroin. Many of the items provided to those in active addiction include medications (Methadone, Naltrexone, or Naloxone) as well as clean syringes.
So, harm reduction programs are not new, and they are not a creation of the Biden Administration. However, this Harm Reduction Grant – with a deadline of February 7, 2022 – lists at least twenty different types of supplies that may be passed out – at the taxpayer’s expense – in an effort to stem infections as a result of drug abuse.
Items on the list – which were included in the 75-page grant application – include “safe smoking kits/supplies” in addition to infectious disease testing kits, safe sex kits, condoms, syringes, and the ability for certain agencies to provide screening for infectious diseases. Hepatitis A – D is mentioned as one of the infectious diseases that will be screen within the purview of the program.
It’s the mention of “safe smoking kits” that have GOP lawmakers in an uproar, in particular, Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
Earlier in the week, The Washington Free Beacon reported on the program, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services’ prioritizing of “underserved communities,” which President Biden defined in Executive Order 13985, which was one of the initial orders signed the day Biden was inaugurated.
According to the Beacon, an HHS spokesperson told newspaper reporters that “the grants would fund smoking kits with pipes for users to smoke crystal methamphetamine, crack cocaine and any illicit substances.”
This prompted Blackburn’s letter, in which she said, “Government-funded drug paraphernalia is a slap in the face to the communities and first responders fighting against drugs flowing into our country from a wide-open southern border. If this is the president’s plan to address drug abuse, our nation is in serious trouble.”
In her missive, Blackburn gave the Department of Health and Human Services a deadline of March 1 to “clarify” what the safe smoking devices are, and, if the administration is planning to distribute syringes and glass pipes (typically considered paraphernalia – which each state punishes differently). While possession of drug paraphernalia is not a federal crime, most states look at a possession of syringes, glass pipes, and (at one time) even “rolling papers” which people at one time used to roll marijuana joints as a misdemeanor in the very least.
An unnamed spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told Fox News that the report in the Washington Free Beacon is ‘blatant misinformation” – however, Fox also said that the spokesperson did not “explicitly” deny the report.
Blackburn is not alone in her concern. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) also tweeted about the program.
Americans should also know that the Harm Reduction Grant is authorized by the American Rescue Plan (the same legislation that provided $1400 per taxpayer early 2021) and offered by SAMSHA. It is “designed to help Americans who are struggling with substance abuse stay healthy and safe, prevent overdose death, and find pathways to evidence-based treatments.” Ironically, however, there is only a brief mention in the grant application regarding funding for said treatments.