Trump Again Tries to Slash Drug Policy Office

For the second year, the White House will try to shift the main grant programs run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments. Congress blocked the idea last year, and may do so again.

President Trump again hopes to slash the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the second attempt to gut the office responsible for coordinating the federal response to the opioid crisis, reports Politico. The plan would shift the office’s two main grant programs, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grants and the Drug Free Communities Act. That would remove $340 million, or 95 percent of ONDCP’s budget. Trump administration officials say the office still would serve as the White House’s drug policy shop, while the grants would be administered by larger agencies.

Policy experts contend that the plan sshow the Trump administration isn’t serious about addressing the opioid epidemic, despite the president’s designating the substance abuse disorder a national emergency. Trump hasn’t appointed a “drug czar,” to lead ONDCP or asked Congress for additional funding states say is needed to tackle the crisis. The administration has emphasized a law-and-order approach that experts say only constitutes a narrow part of the solution — one that if overemphasized could harm more struggling patients than it helps. The White House Office of Management and Budget floated cutting the grant programs last year, but the plan was scrapped in the face of fierce resistance from Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Critics say the move would leave the policy office with little power or purpose.“I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away  its programs in the middle of an epidemic,” said Regina LaBelle, ONDCP chief of staff in the Obama administration. Lawmakers,  including Sen. Shelley More Capito (R-WVA) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), are expected to push back against the second attempt to alter the office.