Biden sends his first drug control strategy to Congress
The inaugural plan focuses on untreated addiction and drug trafficking and builds on the administration’s work to reduce harm and stigma from drug use.
President Joe Biden today sent Congress his administration’s first National Drug Control Strategy that outlines his approach to beating the overdose epidemic.
The strategy focuses on two critical drivers of the epidemic — untreated addiction and drug trafficking — and comes as almost 9,000 lives were lost each day of the last year.
“[The strategy] instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers’ profits and make better use of data to guide all these efforts,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the National Drug Control Policy, told reporters on Wednesday during a press call that the strategy specifically calls for greater access to naloxone — a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose — and drug test strips and syringe services programs.
The strategy will also look to expand access to treatment to those at the highest risk of overdosing: People experiencing homelessness, those who are incarcerated or re-entering society and people who inject drugs.
Illicit drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine have accelerated the overdose epidemic. So the White House will focus on disrupting the cash flow for drug traffickers, protecting people from criminal exploitation by those involved in drug trafficking and empowering federal agencies to work with partner governments in drug-producing and transit countries to prevent illicit drugs from ever reaching the US border.
The Department of Health and Human Services last December announced a $30-million grant program focused on reducing the harms of drug use and the stigma of addiction.
The program will distribute $10 million per year over the next three years. Grant recipients must use the resources to support harm reduction services like the provision of sterile syringes, safe-sex kits, prevention education about synthetic opioids and other substances and overdose prevention kits including the distribution of naloxone — a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. Service providers can also offer peer worker engagement, medical services, case management and referral to treatment.
Lawmakers opposed to this work mischaracterized HHS as appropriating funds for “crack pipes” although the safe-smoking kits never included them.
In fact, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia introduced a bill to block federal funds from going toward drug paraphernalia. And Rubio held up stopgap funding legislation to keep the government open earlier this year to debate his bill.
The episode was proof we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of destigmatizing drug use and addition at the highest levels of government.
President Biden’s 2023 budget requests separate $300 million increases for Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Overall, the budget asks for $3.2 billion for law enforcement.
Advocates warn the progress of the administration’s drug control strategy could be thwarted due to the chronic over-policing of Black and brown people leading to the racial disparities we’ve already seen in who receives grace for their addiction and who becomes yet another casualty in the failed so-called war on drugs.
But senior administration officials said that 75 cents of every dollar in funding will go to harm reduction and treatment.
The president spoke of these efforts at his first State of the Union address last month.
“There’s so much we can do: Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery, get rid of outdated rules and stop doctors that stop doctors from prescribing treatments, stop the flow of illicit drugs by working with state and local law enforcement to go after the traffickers,” Biden said. “And if you’re suffering from addiction, you should know you’re not alone. I believe in recovery.”
Editor’s Note: People searching for treatment for substance use disorders can find options by visiting findtreatment.gov or by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Update: For my story on Wednesday morning about the Senate’s upcoming push to pass marijuana reform, The White House did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication. Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the issue during her daily briefing Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what she had to say:
On when Biden will fulfill his campaign promise to decriminalize marijuana: Well, the President continues to believe that no one should be in jail because of drug use. I don’t have an update here. We are continuing to work with Congress.
On the administration’s progress on its promises: “For instance, the [Drug Enforcement Administration] just issued its first licenses to companies to cultivate marijuana for research purposes after years of delay during the prior administration. This is a key step in promoting research because it broadens the amount and quality of cannabis available for research purposes.”
On Biden’s campaign promise to automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions: “Well, again, he’s reviewing his clemency powers. That’s exactly what that looks like. I don’t have any updates or previews beyond that, though.”
I’ll continue to track this story as it works its way through the legislative process.
Programming note: Supercreator will skip publication on Friday, April 22. I’ll be OOO and enjoying a long birthday weekend. (Shoutout to my fellow Taurus kings and queens!) The newsletter will return on Monday, April 25.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before speaking on Russia and Ukraine. Then he will travel to Portland to speak about the infrastructure investments at Portland International Airport, including an earthquake-resilient runway. Later, Biden will speak at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Portland. The president this evening will travel to Seattle and speak at another DNC fundraiser.
Vice President Harris this morning will travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco to meet with current and former maternal health patients and speak with members of the maternal health care workforce at the University of California, San Francisco Mission Bay. Harris will then speak on the administration’s commitment to improving maternal health. The Vice President will return to Los Angeles this evening.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— President Biden is expected to announce a new round of military aid to Ukraine in a speech later this morning. The new package is expected to be similar in size to the $800 million drawdown Biden announced last week and will include heavy artillery and ammunition to help Ukrainian forces fight what’s now become more of a ground war in the eastern region of the country. (The Associated Press)
— President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ordered his forces not to storm a steel plant in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. This appears to reflect a change in strategy in Mariupol, where the Russians previously seemed determined to take every last inch of the city. (Adam Schreck / AP News)
— The Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on 40 individuals and entities and is also targeting companies operating in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry, reportedly the third-largest in the world. “The United States will work to ensure that the sanctions we have imposed, in close coordination with our international partners, degrade the Kremlin’s ability to project power and fund its invasion,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
— Related: The State Department also placed visa restrictions on sanctions evaders to promote accountability for human rights abuses and violations. “The actions today hold to account individuals participating in Putin and Lukashenka’s repression, and those who seek to enable it,” the Department said in a statement.
— More than 5 million people have fled the country since Russian troops invaded on Feb. 24. The refugee crisis is Europe’s biggest since World War II. (Monika Scislowska and Rafal Niedzielski / AP News)
— Related: A majority of people in the US continue to support a mask requirement for people traveling on airplanes and other shared transportation. Among Democrats, 80 percent favor and just 5% oppose the requirement; 45 percent of Republicans are opposed compared with 33 percent in favor, with 22 percent saying neither. The poll was conducted before the Florida judge struck down the CDC’s mass transportation mask mandate. (Dave Kolpack / AP News)
— Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra met on Wednesday in Nevada with youth who had experienced homelessness about the repeated trauma of living on the street. He told the youth HHS would continue to work with states on creative ways to solve issues at the intersection of housing and mental health. The visit was a stop on the Becerra’s National Tour To Strengthen Mental Health.
— President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will attend the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner on April 30. The organization was unsure if they would attend the black-tie affair, known inside the beltway as “nerd prom,” due to a recent uptick in COVID cases. The Bidens will be the first “first couple” to do so since Barack and Michelle Obama attended in 2016. (Quint Forgey / Politico)
— Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection predict current funding could exhaust as early as July, leaving it with a budget shortfall amid an expected surge in migration once Title 42 is lifted. “There are a range of ways to address [insufficient funding levels], and we’re working on exactly that,” Jen Psaki said during her Wednesday briefing.
— Capitol Police evacuated the US Capitol on Wednesday evening due to a potential aircraft threat after the Federal Aviation Administration apparently failed to notify the police of a pre-planned flyover during a Major League Baseball game at Nationals Stadium in DC. “Congress looks forward to reviewing the results of a thorough after-action review that determines what precisely went wrong today and who at the [FAA] will be held accountable for this outrageous and frightening mistake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
— Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Rep. Ro Khanna of California co-authored an op-ed calling on Congress to quickly pass legislation that would help US manufacturers compete with China. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are expected to start negotiations on a final agreement that the White House has signaled President Biden will sign once passed into law.
— Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Sunday plans to visit Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, in a show of support for the workers’ unionization drive. Sanders has long been one of Congress’ most outspoken supporters of organized labor and has been vocal in the press and on social media in support of Amazon workers’ efforts to form a union. (Daniel Marans / HuffPost)
— Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama won’t renew their streaming deal with Spotify when their contract expires this year. Instead, they’ll seek a multi-million deal elsewhere that will allow it to produce several shows and release them on multiple platforms at the same time. (Lucas Shaw / Bloomberg)
— Related: Barack Obama has taken up a new post-presidency passion project: Fighting disinformation. The former president will speak today at Stanford to call on tech giants he was once quite chummy with to establish tighter guardrails against the online falsehoods he believes are eroding the foundations of democracy. (Steven Lee Myers and Cecilia Kang / NYT)
READ ALL ABOUT IT
John Leland on how loneliness is damaging our health:
Here’s what neuroscientists think was happening in your brain.
The human brain, having evolved to seek safety in numbers, registers loneliness as a threat. The centers that monitor for danger, including the amygdala, go into overdrive, triggering a release of “fight or flight” stress hormones. Your heart rate rises, your blood pressure and blood sugar level increase to provide energy in case you need it. Your body produces extra inflammatory cells to repair tissue damage and prevent infection, and fewer antibodies to fight viruses. Subconsciously, you start to view other people more as potential threats — sources of rejection or apathy — and less as friends, remedies for your loneliness.
And in a cruel twist, your protective measures to isolate you from the coronavirus may actually make you less resistant to it, or less responsive to the vaccine, because you have fewer antibodies to fight it.
Jonathan Malesic on what it would take to make people love their jobs again:
Many critics of American work culture are not in a position to change federal or corporate policy. They can, however, provide the vision and energy to push for change. To do so, they will need to reckon with what people get out of their work, figure out ways to preserve the good while eliminating the bad, and ultimately envision a society in which people can get those benefits, both material and moral, by other means.
Mark Joseph Stern on how Connecticut is preparing for the next phase of the abortion wars:
The ultimate aim of today’s anti-abortion movement is to outlaw abortion across the country. As a result, the next phase of the abortion wars will test the limits of red states’ ability to stretch their abortion bans into other jurisdictions in a bid to shutter, bankrupt, and imprison providers across the country. Connecticut’s new legislation stops them before they can get the chance. Given the stakes, more blue states will need to copy Connecticut’s playbook or risk opening their residents up to anti-abortion persecution after Roe falls.
Alex Pareene on the far right’s anti-journalism movement:
If you are attempting to persuade this creep's defenders, specifically, and not a general audience, that what Lorenz did was ethical, and that the creep's identity is newsworthy, you have made a category error. These people on this ascendant right don't just have different ideas about the role and function of journalism; they don't just believe journalists are biased liberals; they don't just believe the media is too hostile to conservatives; they are hostile to the concept of journalism itself. As in, uncovering things dutifully and carefully and attempting to convey your findings to the public honestly. They don’t want that and don’t like it and are endeavoring to end it as a common practice.
This new right fundamentally doesn’t want "newsgathering" to happen. They want a chaotic information stream of unverifiable bullshit and context collapse and propaganda. Their backers, the people behind the whole project, are philosophically and materially opposed to the idea that true things should be uncovered and verified and disseminated publicly about, well, them, and their projects. This may have started as a politically opportunistic war against particular outlets and stories, but it has quickly blossomed into a worldview. It’s an ideologically coherent opposition to the liberal precepts of verifiability and transparency, and the holders of those precepts are too invested in them to understand what their enemy is doing.
Alissa Wilkinson on how movies about school shootings have changed us:
What emerges from these early aughts attempts to understand shootings using the tools of cinema is a need to understand, in a way that ends up centering the shooter. Does that have an effect on viewers? Does it position the shooter as the true protagonist of the tale? And — perhaps most chillingly — is it possible that it makes the character, however heinous their deeds, sort of attractive to certain audiences?
It’s impossible to say, and maybe even dangerous to posit. But as the months after Columbine showed — when garbled stories grew into folk legends that could end up hurting survivors further — that focus could be, at best counterproductive. And in the decades of school shootings since, survivors have found themselves processing their trauma in different ways, complicated by having to navigate those emotions with a still-developing brain. Meanwhile, we can offer all kinds of reasons that school shootings happen so frequently in America, including a prevalent gun culture and lack of mental health support. But those confront the symptoms, not the cause. We still don’t have real answers for the why of it all, the senseless violence, the unending tragedy, the thing that might make a young person want to do something so awful — the thing movies tried to figure out.
Kevin T. Dugan on what the hell happened to Netflix:
Of course, there’s a lot more going on here. Netflix blamed a large chunk of the subscriber loss on the war in Ukraine, since it pulled out of Russia and lost 700,000 subscribers with it. (The company says that if it weren’t for its exiting Russia, it would have added a half a million subscribers — still well below its forecast). Netflix is still huge — it has 222 million subscribers worldwide — but about 100 million households are sharing passwords, with about a third of those in the U.S. and Canada, according to the company. That may end soon, though, as the company pilots more expensive account-sharing programs in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. And more than that, the pandemic economy is crumbling under two strains: the fact that people are leaving their homes and the fact that just about everything is getting more expensive.
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