Legislation to Help Address Opioid Crisis Introduced

This week, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act, which is intended to provide flexibility to Drug-Free Communities (DFC) coalitions during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure they can continue to serve local communities. The bipartisan legislation temporarily allows the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the authority to waive the program’s local matching requirements if the grantee is unable to meet them due to the ongoing pandemic.  

“Too many communities and too many families have struggled with the opioid epidemic.  Across our region, we’ve seen local efforts funded through the Drug-Free Communities Program that have played a critical role in preventing and reducing substance use,” said Rep. Kilmer. “However, these efforts have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why I’m supporting this bipartisan plan to help make sure that these community-based programs have the resources they need – today and in the future – to make a difference.”   

“While we continue to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and rein in the pandemic, we cannot turn a blind eye to the ongoing opioid crisis,” said Rep. Joyce. “Addiction and substance use disorder are unfortunate challenges for so many families across Ohio. Thankfully, the Drug-Free Communities program has helped us combat the opioid crisis at the local level and has made a difference in the lives of countless young Ohioans. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to give this program the flexibility it needs to continue its life-saving work during these difficult times. I urge the House to act quickly on this bill so that we can ensure youth addiction prevention programs have the resources to conduct effective outreach in our communities during the ongoing pandemic.” 

The DFC program, which was created in 1997, supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs. The Drug-Free Communities Act is designed to improve effectiveness and accountability in these programs by capping the amount spent on administrative and overhead expenses, requiring all coalitions that receive grants to have experience in drug abuse prevention, and to match federal funding with local funds. No other drug prevention program has achieved the same reduction in youth drug use that has been achieved consistently by the DFC program.

In 2018, the U.S. saw its first decline in drug overdose deaths in nearly 30 years. But that progress is quickly being erased. In 2019, fatal drug overdoses hit a record high, accounting for the deaths of 70,980 Americans. Recent data from the CDC shows that more than half of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This trend is ongoing this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the mental health and economic security of Americans across the country. 

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The bill is supported by: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA), NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), and National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC).