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Shelley Starkey

ONDCP Could See 95% Budget Cut

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The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) faces a second threat of losing 95 percent of its budget under President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 proposal, according to Politico. Defunding ONDCP would directly contradict the Administration’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, as the office is responsible for coordinating the federal response to the crisis. The National Council opposes this proposal, and will continue to work to ensure proper funding for this important office.

The leaked proposal would delegate two of ONDCP’s main grant programs – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and Drug-Free Communities – to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) respectively. Kevin Sabet, an official at ONDCP under the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, has said that moving these programs out of the purview of the White House “reduces the prominence of these programs and puts them in the bowels of agencies that have different priorities.”

Andrew Kessler, the director of behavioral health policy consulting firm SlingShot Solutions, likened defunding ONDCP in the middle of the opioid crisis to “taking the responsibility of emergency response away from the CDC in the middle of the Ebola emergency. It would never happen.”

“For a tiny cost saving measure, to risk lives and to take out our one coordinating office and to make vulnerable some of our key programs, we just think is the wrong policy move,” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, President and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum.

Legislators are poised to push back against the proposed cuts once again. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees ONDCP, has said that she would “resist the move.” Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has similarly expressed his resistance to the proposal. In the face of a similar proposal last year, the National Council joined other advocates in vocally fighting and ultimately succeeding to protect funding for ONDCP.

The President’s budget request has traditionally been released in January or early February. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for updates on how the President’s budget would affect individuals living with mental illness and substance use disorders.