As drug overdoses reach record-high, Cicilline urges White House to reconsider funding

As drug overdoses reach record-high, Cicilline urges White House to reconsider funding

Record-Journal
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Letter opposing cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In a letter sent to the White House, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline is raising questions regarding a budget plan that would potentially reduce funding necessary to combat a growing number of drug overdoses nationwide.

The letter sent to President Donald J. Trump Monday, he focuses on a budget proposal from the White House that would cut funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the lead federal agency in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction. Cicilline urged the president and his staff to reconsider as overdose deaths have reached record levels in Rhode Island, as well as nationwide.

“Under the White House’s proposal, ONDCP would lose 95% of its current funding levels,” Cicilline said in an email. “According to the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s Office, 336 people died last year as a result of a drug overdose, up from 290 in 2015. Nationwide, overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids have quadrupled since 1999.”

— Sun staff

May 15, 2017

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump:

We write to strongly oppose your proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). On May 5, 2017, a draft budget document from the White House indicated that your administration proposed slashing the ONDCP budget by 95 percent and reducing funding for ONDCP from $388 million in 2017 to $24 million in 2018.

Our country is in the midst of a staggering drug overdose epidemic that is devastating families and communities across the country. In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids and as many as 1,000 people are treated for misusing prescription opioids every day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,[1] making this one of the worst drug epidemics in recent history. Deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids—such as Vicodin, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl—have been increasing at an alarming rate and have quadrupled since 1999.[2] In 2015 alone, nearly two-thirds, or approximately 33,000, drug overdose deaths involved opioids[3]—a death rate which surpassed for the first time deaths from automobile and firearms.[4] In order to reverse the tide on the drug addiction and deaths involving opioids, we must improve policy around and make necessary investments in prevention, recovery and treatment services.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy fills a critical need for an entity within the White House that can research and set rigorous, evidence-based policy and interventions for addressing the health issue of drug use and addiction; formulate a national strategy that identifies available resources across agencies within the federal government; and coordinate across federal agencies to carry out this national strategy. ONDCP has been the central agency to fulfill this role since 1982 and has valuable knowledge of the history and extent of our country’s drug crisis.

Your proposed budget would nearly zero out ONDCP funding and cut roughly half the agency’s staff. Gutting the ONDCP’s budget, cutting staff, and losing the agency’s historical knowledge would hobble the federal government’s ability to maximize response to the drug overdose crisis—including focusing on the hardest hit communities; formulating responsive policy to treat drug use as a public health issue; addressing the urgent need to increase access to evidence-based treatment; and advising stakeholders on best practices for reducing substance abuse.

The proposed budget cut also includes eliminating two signature ONDCP grant programs with bipartisan support, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program and the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program. HIDTA grants provide critical assistance to local law enforcement in creating tailored solutions to combat drug trafficking in their region while DFC grants have proven to be effective in reducing substance abuse among youth.

You rightfully made combating the opioid overdose epidemic a centerpiece of your 2016 campaign. To cut off funding to the main office tasked with this exact goal would not only be shortsighted, but would also undermine your pledge to the American people. We strongly urge you to reconsider proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy and recommit necessary resources to battling the drug addiction and overdose crisis.

Sincerely,

David N. Cicilline

Member of Congress


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