On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis through the Drug-Free Communities program.
The legislation, the Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act, would give Drug-Free Communities coalitions financial flexibility by allowing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the authority to waive the program’s matching funds requirement if the grantee is unable to meet the requirements because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While we continue to administer COVID-19 vaccinations and rein in the pandemic, we cannot turn a blind eye to the ongoing opioid crisis,” Joyce said. “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.”
Co-sponsored by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), the legislation aims to combat rising opioid overdose deaths stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, drug overdose deaths declined, Joyce’s office said in a release, but that trend was reversed in 2020 as the pandemic continues to impact the mental health and economic security of Americans.
“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 youth substance use,” Kilmer said. “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 help our kids succeed.”