June 22, 2024

The Biden administration is not spending $30 million to send ‘crack pipes’ to Black communities

President Joe Biden (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Biden White House on Wednesday denied claims that it is funding the distribution of crack pipes to communities across the United States, clarifying that a multi-million dollar grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services is intended to reduce harm caused by drug addiction. 

Conservative media outlets previously reported that President Joe Biden was spending $30 million to distribute crack pipes to Americans struggling with addiction, particularly in “underserved communities.” 

Those reports from The Washington Free Beacon and Fox News spread like wildfire on the internet and eventually morphed into the erroneous claim that the Biden administration was spending the $30 million to specifically send crack pipes to Black communities.

The misinformation regarding crack pipes was so widely spread that controversial Fox News host Tucker Carlson addressed the matter on his primetime show, suggesting that the harm reduction program’s emphasis on “underserved communities” was an affront to white people struggling with opioid addiction. Similarly, Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton slammed the administration over the false claims.  

In a joint public statement, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta made clear, “No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

The $30 million at the center of the “crack pipe” misinformation stems from a grant funded by the American Rescue Plan and administered by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency under HHS, that was announced last year. 

The agency accepted applications from state, local, tribal, territorial governments, tribal organizations, non-profit community-based organizations, and primary and behavioral health organizations that seek to provide services that “prevent overdose deaths and reduce health risks often associated with drug use.”

A senior Biden official told theGrio that the program is intended to “deliver evidenced-based harm reduction strategies to individuals that are struggling with addiction,” clarifying that “no awards have been made yet at this time, while applications were due earlier this week.”

While the administration made clear it is not funding the distribution of pipes, the grant program will provide safe smoking kits containing a range of equipment such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips, clean syringes, alcohol swabs and even lip balm to protect the lips from cuts, which the senior Biden official said is a “mechanism through which people can become ill.”

“This is about keeping people alive and keeping people safe. And so there are decades of research demonstrating that we can reduce the spread of transmissible disease by providing clean syringes, for example,” the senior Biden official told theGrio

“So syringe services programs have quite a bit of evidence indicating that they can save lives as well as get people connected into care…these services are typically delivered in the context of a larger suite of wraparound support and entry into treatment for drug use. And so it is about saving lives and getting people to be safe and healthy.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing on October 22, 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

TheGrio’s April Ryan asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the recent misinformation to which Psaki said, “I think there’s been a lot of misinformation about particularly this issue and and it is really clouded over what is a hugely important issue in this country, which is a fight against the opioid epidemic and the need to have bipartisan approaches that are going to help communities that are impacted address it.”

She added, “We felt it was important to put out a public statement from the federal government to make that clear because we saw the spreading of misinformation and the fact that it was having an impact on a range of communities. And we felt even though it was never true, that we needed to put out a proactive statement.”

Psaki reiterated the public statement from Secretary Becerra and Gupta: “We don’t support federal funding, indirect or direct for pipes.”

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