The Biden Administration is providing funding to fight against drug addiction and crack pipes are among the supplies included on the approved equipment list.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has included the pipes as one of 20 items in its planned safe smoking kits, which will be distributed through the department’s harm reduction program.
A nearly $30 million grant program from the HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will provide funding to local governments, nonprofits and other community-based organizations in hopes of tackling the record cases of drug addiction and overdoses.
“The purpose of the program is to support community-based overdose prevention programs, syringe services programs, and other harm reduction services,” the grant application states.
Officials believe providing the crack pipes will help limit the risk of infection by preventing drug addicts from using glass pipes – which lead to cuts, sores and a greater risk of Hepatitis C – or sharing them.
A spokesperson said the crack pipes are also intended to encourage drug users to smoke substances like crystal methamphetamine and crack cocaine, rather than injecting themselves because the latter is riskier.
According to the grant, organizations will also be expected to purchase equipment and supplies like overdose reversal medication, syringes, wound care management supplies, safe sex kits, medication lock boxes, substance test kits and more.
The program aims to help nonprofits build sustainable programs that include prevention education, treatment and recovery support services for HIV and other STIs, evidence-based trauma-informed practices in the organizational structure and more.
Applications closed Monday, Feb. 7 and money is set to be awarded starting in May. Grantees can receive up to $400,000 per year.
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Organizations that prioritize underserved populations like Black Americans, Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ community will be given priority.
The program is said to fulfill the directive in one of Biden’s executive orders in which he states, “the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”
The grant is just one of several approaches the Biden Administration is taking as the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said they may allow the opening of safe injection sites – where users of heroin and other drugs are allowed to use substances under the supervision of medical experts that will work to help prevent overdoses.
The DOJ told The Associated Press (AP) it was “evaluating” the facilities and talking to regulators about “appropriate guardrails.”
“Although we cannot comment on pending litigation, the Department is evaluating supervised consumption sites, including discussions with state and local regulators about appropriate guardrails for such sites, as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety,” the agency said in a statement Friday to the AP.
This is an extreme reversal from the administration of former President Donald Trump, who fought against a planned opening of a safe injection site in Philadelphia. The court ultimately sided with the Trump Administration, stating it violated a 1980s law aimed at “crackhouses.”
Some leaders are upset over the HHS grant program and the safe injection sites, saying they will do more harm than good by enabling drug abuse. Others have called out the disparity in how the government responded in the 1980s and 1990s when crack ravaged the Black community.
“If we look at more of a preventive campaign as opposed to an enabling campaign, I think it will offer an opportunity to have safer communities with fewer people who are dependable on these substances,” said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police.
Users on Twitter also weighed in. See some of their comments below.