As Overdose Crisis Worsens, Cicilline Tells Trump Not to Kill Office of National Drug Control Policy

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, released a letter he sent to President Donald Trump asking that he not move forward on a White House proposal to cut funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the lead federal agency in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction. Under the White House’s proposal, ONDCP would lose 95% of its current funding levels.

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.

The full text of Cicilline’s letter is embedded below. A PDF copy of the letter, as sent to the White House, can be downloaded by clicking here.

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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

cc:

Michael Mulvaney

Director

The Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

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