According to the Biden administration, the Department of Health and Human Services will not use federal funds to install crack pipes in vulnerable communities.
Becerra Director Dr. Rahul Gandhi Gupta, Office of National Drug Control Policy ONDCP Director stated in a press release that the administration is "focused on using resources smartly to reduce harms and save lives." Federal funding won't be used to purchase safe smoking equipment or reimburse grantees.
This statement is made amid intense congressional scrutiny and media attention to smoking kits that reportedly contain crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia. Initially reported by Washington Free Beacon. HHS wanted to finance the distribution of the kits while putting an emphasis on underserved areas.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated Wednesday that the reporting was incorrect and crack pipes weren't part of the smoking kit. However, The Free Beacon claims to have spoken to a HHS spokesperson who confirmed crack pipes and other paraphernalia would make up the kits.
Gupta and Becerra stated that they will continue to use harm reduction strategies such as providing clean syringes.
Becerra and Gupta stated that harm reduction was a goal to save lives. The administration is focusing on a comprehensive strategy for stopping the spread of drugs, curbing addiction, as well as prioritizing the use proven harm reduction strategies such as naloxone, clean syringes, and fentanyl testing strips. It also takes decisive steps to pursue violent criminals involved in trafficking illegal drugs like fentanyl over our borders and into our communities. We will continue to work on the addiction and overdose epidemic, and make sure that our resources are used in a smartest and most efficient way.
Grant document refers to Biden's executive Order 13985, "Advancing Racial Equity & Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government."
The order defines equity as "the consistent, systematic fair, just, impartial treatment of all individuals," including those who are from underserved communities such as Black, Latino and Native American persons.
HHS initially questioned the Beacon's reporting and called it "blatant misinformation", while supporting harm reduction strategies. It didn't deny that crack pipe distribution was being funded.
Marsha Blackburn (Republican from Tennessee) gave HHS until March 1, to clarify if the Biden administration actually authorizes the distribution of drug paraphernalia.
Blackburn wrote that "government-funded drug paraphernalia" was a insult to communities and first responders who fight against drugs flowing into the country from the open southern border. "If this is the president’s plan to combat drug abuse, then our nation is in serious danger."