The fiscal 2018 budget developed by President Donald J. Trump would all but eliminate funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the agency spearheading the fight against the national opioid epidemic, according to a report from Politico.
The White House’s budget proposal allots $24 million for fiscal 2018, a 95% decrease from the $388 million in federal funds the office received in 2017.
Two programs within the agency — the high-intensity drug trafficking program, which received $254 million in 2017, and the drug-free communities support program, which received $100 million — are to be “completely zeroed out” under the new budget, Politico reported.
Jobs in the agency also would be cut under Trump’s budget, with a proposed $7 million reduction in salaries. Politico reported that the reduction was equivalent to as many as 33 full-time positions, nearly half of the 70 people employed by the agency.
In a staff email obtained by the news outlet, acting Director Rich Baum described the budget cuts as “heartbreaking.”
The White House has not confirmed details of the proposal.
“It would be premature for us to comment — or anyone to report — on any aspect of this ever-changing, internal discussion before the publication of the document,” the White House said in a statement. “The president and his cabinet are working collaboratively to create a leaner, more efficient government that does more with less of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R- Ohio), co-author of legislation designed to battle the opioid epidemic, released a statement this afternoon criticizing the budget cuts.
“I’ve known and worked with our drug czars for more than 20 years and this agency is critical to our efforts to combat drug abuse in general, and this opioid epidemic, in particular,” Portman said in the statement. “We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic." – by Andy Polhamus