Drug Czar Announces $85 Million In Grants For Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Programs

By John Lavitt 09/06/16

Nearly 700 communities nationwide will receive funding for programs to help prevent young people from abusing prescription drugs, tobacco, pot and alcohol. 

Drug Czar Announces $85 Million In Grants For Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Programs
ONDCP Director Michael Botticelli Photo 60 Minutes/YouTube

Last week, the White House continued its efforts to address the national opioid addiction crisis. Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, participated in a roundtable discussion on the drug crisis ravaging Delaware, and announced new substance use disorder prevention grants for close to 700 communities nationwide.

On Thursday, at the Wilmington Campus of Delaware Technical Community College, Botticelli attended the roundtable that focused on the lack of funding for overdose prevention and addiction treatment. Participants at the roundtable included first responders, law enforcement, treatment providers and local politicians. With 90,000 Delawareans suffering from addiction, only 9,000 are able to receive addiction treatment.

Before the roundtable, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) pointed out how the federal government has failed to adequately fund treatment. "I am very concerned that we continue to fail to fund effective treatment," explained Coons, according to the News Journal. "This is in keeping with an unfortunate fact: there's an unwillingness to fund public health needs."

Although such a lack of funding remains the crux of the problem, Botticelli pointed out that President Barack Obama's administration could only do so much without the support of Congress. Rather than approving the $1.1 billion requested to fund legislation aimed at the opioid crisis, Congress radically reduced the total amount while refusing to give the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) any financial teeth.

Until more funding can be accessed, Botticelli believes leaders on a state and local level need to be key players in the battle. "What I do believe, quite honestly, is that the solution to this epidemic is community," said Botticelli at the roundtable discussion. "We have the leadership and know-how to turn the tide on this epidemic."

In light of this difficulty, Botticelli seems to be doing everything he can to address the national opioid epidemic with the resources currently available. The day after the roundtable, he announced $85.9 million in grants to improve youth prevention efforts in 698 communities nationwide. Designated as Drug-Free Communities (DFC), the program was a vanguard prevention effort created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997. The DFC program facilitates youth and adult collaboration in drug use prevention efforts. The program is directed locally, helping to bolster community infrastructure.

But Botticelli pointed out that current efforts are not enough. “The evidence-based prevention work led by local DFC community coalitions is critically needed to reduce youth substance, particularly in the midst of the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic," he said. "To fully address the opioid crisis, however, Congress must act to provide funding to make lifesaving treatment available to everyone who seeks it … Every day that passes without Congressional action to provide these additional resources is a missed opportunity to save lives.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.