• Spotlight: Drug-Free Communities Support Program & Community Coalitions

    Last week, one of our office’s most important and evidence-based programs convened leaders in substance use prevention from across the Nation. The Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) hosted its annual New Grantee meeting in Washington, D.C., giving us an opportunity to discuss a fundamental part of our work at ONDCP: prevention. 

    Director Kerlikowske Meets with Drug Free Communities Support Program New Grantees

    ONDCP Director Kerlikowske meets with new grantees of the Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2013. December 13, 2013.

    This year, we awarded $79.2 million in DFC grants to more than 600 coalitions across the country. These grants provide community coalitions with support to prevent and reduce youth substance use. We are proud to work with our partner in substance use prevention, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to give these coalitions the training and infrastructure they need to successfully reduce youth substance use.

    Substance use is a huge public health problem in our country, costing us in 2007 more than $193 billion in costs related to criminal justice, health, and lost productivity.

    Preventing drug use before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities. Research shows an association between drug use and traffic crash deaths, lost productivity and poor academic performance. Illicit drug use also contributes to HIV-transmission rates and puts children at risk for abuse and neglect. Preventing substance use and dependence before they begin can save lives and cut costs related to healthcare and criminal justice. DFCs help establish networks of trained, dedicated local leaders who make a difference by building healthy communities and reducing youth substance use.  

    What is the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC)?

    A Federal grant program that provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance use.  Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the DFC program has funded nearly 2,000 coalitions and currently mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers across the country. The philosophy behind the DFC program is that local drug problems require local solutions.  With a small Federal investment, the DFC program doubles the amount of funding through the DFC program’s match requirement, to address youth substance use.  Recent evaluation data indicate that where DFC dollars are invested, youth substance use is lower.  Over the life of the DFC program, youth living in DFC communities have experienced reductions in alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. 

    In the past eight years that DFC has been evaluated, DFC-funded communities have achieved significant reductions in youth alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use.  For middle school youth living in DFC-funded communities, data from the DFC National Evaluation indicate a 16% reduction in alcohol use, 27% reduction in tobacco use, and 23% reduction in marijuana use.  High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 9%, tobacco by 16%, and marijuana by 7% in DFC-funded communities.  DFC-funded coalitions are actively engaged in facilitating prescription drug take-back programs in conjunction with local law enforcement, as well as local policy change to effectively address the accessibility and availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  See the 2012 National Evaluation Report.

    In an increasingly challenging media environment, now, more than ever, the DFC program is needed in communities across the country to help prevent drug use and reduce its consequences.  Drug problems manifest in local communities and show up in our schools, churches, health centers, and in our homes.  The DFC program helps local leaders organize to identify the youth drug issues unique to their communities and develop the infrastructures necessary to effectively prevent and respond to the disease of addiction. 

    What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program do?

    The primary purpose of the DFC program is to: strengthen collaboration among community entities; and reduce substance use among youth. DFC grantees are required to work toward these two goals as the primary focus of their Federally-funded effort.  Grants awarded through the DFC program are intended to support established community-based coalitions capable of effecting community-level change. For the purposes of the DFC program, a coalition is defined as a community-based formal arrangement for cooperation and collaboration among groups or sectors of a community in which each group retains its identity, but all agree to work together toward a common goal of building a safe, healthy, and drug-free community. Coalitions receiving DFC funds are expected to work with leaders within their communities to identify and address local youth substance use problems and create sustainable community-level change through environmental strategies.

    What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program fund?

    The DFC program funds one thing: community coalitions that have formed to address youth substance use.  Communities often understand that local stakeholders and citizens hold the key to solving local problems.  In realizing this, community-based coalitions are created every day in this country.  A typical DFC budget submission includes the salary and benefits of an individual that ensures effective day-to-day operations of the coalition, training and technical assistance for the coalition, travel, and prevention efforts that place emphasis on environmental strategies .  DFC funding can be considered the financial support required to further leverage funding to support the various strategies a community needs in order to solves its youth substance use problems.

  • ONDCP Hosts First-Ever Drug Policy Reform Conference

    On Monday, Director Kerlikowske and  Deputy Director Botticelli kicked off an unprecedented discussion at the White House on the future of drug policy.  Braving a snowy D.C. morning, approximately 140 people attended to engage in a conversation on drug policy reform and hundreds more watched online. Limited video on demand is available here

    Director Kerlikowske opens ONDCP's Drug Policy Reform Conference

    Director Kerlikowske opens the Drug Policy Reform conference, Monday, December 9, 2013. December 9, 2013.

    Among those speaking at the conference were the Deputy Attorney General (James Cole) and Tonya Robinson, Special Assistant to the President and member of the Domestic Policy Council.  They were joined by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who is himself in recovery from a substance use disorder and who moderated the panel on stigma and addiction. 

    The Drug Policy Reform Conference featured three panels and focused on public health approaches to drug policy, criminal justice reform, and the importance of lifting the stigma of addiction. 

    Attendees and the online audience heard from addiction recovery specialist Jacki Hillios about her work combining substance use disorder treatment with active, healthy lifestyles at Phoenix Multisport.  Founded in 2009, Phoenix Multisport is a hub for sports and addiction recovery in Denver, Colorado.  Its founder, Scott Strode, was recognized as a CNN Hero in 2012 for his innovative approach to substance use disorder treatment.

    Conference attendees also heard from Alby Zweig, who, with the help of the Denver Drug Court, went from being a defendant to serving as the court’s magistrate.  Just before the third and final panel began, Pat Taylor (of Faces and Voices of Recovery) showed a video trailer for film director Greg Williams’ feature “The Anonymous People”.

    You can review live-tweets of the conference on Twitter on the @ONDCP profile page

  • Director Kerlikowske Participates in Small Business Saturday

    Today, Director Kerlikowske joined local officials in supporting small businesses as part of Small Business Saturday.  An initiative of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

    America’s small businesses are engines of job creation across our country, and President Obama is committed to creating an environment where small businesses can thrive. By cutting taxes for small businesses and increasing their access to capital, the President has encouraged small businesses to expand and create the jobs we need now—and for decades to come.  

    Director Kerlikowske visited “Holy Cow,” a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, for a hamburger lunch.  Holy Cow gives back to its community by donating a quarter from every burger sold to local non-profits, including several organizations offering treatment services for substance use and mental health disorders and support to women who are transitioning from incarceration back into the community. In its first year of business, Holy Cow donated more than 72,000 quarters to over 120 different local Alexandria-based charitable organizations.          

    To learn more about Small Business Saturday, visit sba.gov/saturday

  • Addressing a Public Health Crisis in Ohio

    Due to a dramatic increase in the number of heroin overdose deaths in Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Clinic, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Ohio, and a host of other education, prevention, and law enforcement entities are hosting a heroin summit on November 21, 2013 at the Cleveland Clinic.

    Heroin abuse is a public health crisis in Northeast Ohio.  In 2007, 40 people died from a heroin overdose in Cuyahoga County (Ohio's largest county).  This year, that figure is expected to exceed 200.  For comparison, in Greater Cleveland, twice as many people will die from a heroin overdose than be the victims of a homicide.

    “Greater Cleveland’s leading institutions are coming together to find solutions to this public health crisis,” said Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District. “The fight against heroin is not just about arrests. It is also about prevention and treatment.”

    The daylong event will feature speakers at the forefront of dealing with the heroin epidemic, as well as panel discussions and breakout sessions.

    "We have to speak out loudly and frequently about this emerging public health crisis," Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said. "We are in the middle of something that is very alarming."

    By outlining the scope of the problem and discussing the relevant issues, the heroin summit hopes to create a community action plan that will begin to turn the tide in the region's battle with heroin abuse.

  • Expansion of Innovative Law Enforcement Collaboration

    Today, Director Kerlikowske announced the expansion of an innovative law enforcement program that fosters collaboration between Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officers. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) program has recently added 12 new counties in nine states, enabling those counties to receive Federal resources to facilitate cooperation, information sharing and coordination across organizational lines. See a list of the newly designated counties here.

    The HIDTA program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to support coordinated law enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs—in areas designated “high traffic” and across the Nation. In 2012 alone, HIDTAs collectively disrupted/dismantled 3,033 drug trafficking organizations, removed over $17.8 billion worth of drugs, and seized over $1.9 billion in cash and assets.

    In addition to designating 12 new counties, Director Kerlikowske also announced nearly $3 million in discretionary funding to 21 HIDTAs to enhance targeted enforcement and drug prevention efforts nationwide. The discretionary funds will support strategic priorities based on the unique threats in each HIDTA, including prescription drug abuse and synthetic drugs.  

    Leveraging the latest technology and counter-terrorism expertise—and defined by the spirit of collaboration—HIDTAs are a national model for effective cross-agency partnerships. Learn more about HIDTA accomplishments here

  • Remembering our colleague, Ed Jurith

    Ed Jurith

    It is with great sadness that today we announce the passing of our beloved colleague, Ed Jurith.  During his distinguished career at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Mr. Jurith was appointed twice to serve as Acting Director—first by President Clinton in 2001, then by President Obama in 2009.  Since 1994, he also served as ONDCP’s General Counsel, Senior Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs.

    With his characteristic intelligence, deep insight and good humor, Mr. Jurith embodied the best of public service.  He was one of the brightest minds in drug policy, with more than 30 years of Federal policy-making experience.  He came to ONDCP from the U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, where Mr. Jurith was Staff Director from 1987 to 1993 and Counsel for five years prior to that.  While on staff at the Select Committee, he was instrumental in the development of the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988—which set the framework for U.S. drug policy, and established this very office 25 years ago.

    Mr. Jurith’s reputation as a leader in drug policy crossed international borders.  In 1997, he served as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he researched and lectured on drug policy issues.  As part of the Atlantic Fellowship, Mr. Jurith assisted the UK Anti-Drugs Coordinator in the development of the Blair government’s strategy for reducing substance use.  He lectured widely on drug policy at U.S. and British universities and authored numerous publications in the arena of substance abuse and drug policy.  In addition, Mr. Jurith represented the United States on the board of the World Anti-Doping Agency for many years.

    Back home, in 2010 he became an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law, where he taught a seminar on the intersection of law and drug policy.  His class was extremely popular—enrollment in Mr. Jurith’s course increased from seven students in its first year to capacity (plus a wait list) in the second year.  In the words of the College of Law’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs, students found him both engaging in the classroom and interested in their professional development outside the classroom. 

    Prior to his federal government service, Mr. Jurith was an attorney in private practice in his native New York City.  He graduated, cum laude, from American University in 1973 and received a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 1976.  As a member of the New York, District of Columbia and U.S. Supreme Court Bars, Mr. Jurith served on the Advisory Committee of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Substance Abuse, as well as the District of Columbia Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, a program providing assistance to law students, lawyers and judges with substance use and/or mental health disorders.

    Mr. Jurith is survived by his wife, Kathleen Healy, and his sons Theodore and William. We keep his family in our thoughts and prayers, and honor Ed’s memory by renewing our commitment to the crucial work to which he dedicated his career.  

  • A Veterans Day Message

    This Veterans Day, we join President Obama, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the entire country in honoring our Nation’s veterans. Since the dawn of our country, these brave men and women have fought for and protected the freedoms that make America great. We owe them our deepest gratitude all year round, but today, in particular, we pause to thank them for their selflessness and their service.

    There are many ways to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces this Veterans Day. Join a ceremony near you, and lend your voice online to a simple message of thanks on social media. The VA offers a variety of web-based and phone services online, particularly for veterans in need of mental health services. Visit this page for more information.

    Here at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we are proud to work alongside veterans who lend their talent and energy to the important task of reducing drug use and its consequences across the country. Before he led ONDCP or the Seattle and Buffalo police departments,  Director Gil Kerlikowske served in the United State Army, where he was awarded the Presidential Service Badge.  

    This weekend, we honor our ONDCP leadership and staff who have served proudly, as well as the millions of veterans across the Nation.

  • Ending Discrimination and Opening the Doors to Treatment: Drug Policy Reform

    Today, Director Kerlikowske joins the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Treasury, and the Office of the Vice President in announcing the final rules providing equal coverage or parity for individuals needing treatment for mental health or substance use disorders and who are covered by group and individual health plans.

    Substance use disorders are treatable—and recovery is possible—but too many Americans have not been able to get treatment because they didn’t have insurance coverage for treatment services. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 23 million Americans were in need of treatment for a substance use disorder, and only 2.5 million—about 1-in-10—actually received needed treatment.

    Today’s rule, made possible by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Parity Act) makes it easier for those Americans to get the care they need by ending discriminatory practices that limited insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment and services. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) extends the reach of the Parity Act’s requirements. Starting in 2014, the ACA will require all small group and individual market plans created before March 23, 2010 to comply with federal parity requirements. Qualified Health Plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces in every state must include coverage for mental health and substance use disorders as an Essential Health Benefit, and that coverage must comply with the federal parity requirements set forth in MHPAEA.

    One of the most significant pieces of drug policy reform in a generation, this rule will expand mental health and substance use disorder services to 62 million Americans.  This builds on the historic momentum we’ve achieved toward treating our nation’s drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. For decades, science has shown us that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be successfully prevented and treated - not a moral failure on the part of the individual.

    Today, we honor that research by ensuring that our healthcare system provides the same level of medical coverage for substance use disorders as it does for other chronic diseases, like cancer or diabetes. 

  • A Different Kind of Birthday

    Today marks 25 years since I started my journey of recovery. 

    Coincidentally, the same year I started that journey—in fact, the very same month—a law was created to establish the office where I now serve President Obama.

    Deputy Director Botticelli

    Photo: Deputy Director Botticelli addressing a group of new American citizens at their naturalization ceremony.

    I know that today is just another day, but it is a day filled with joy and gratitude as I think about how my life has changed. While I am so grateful for the opportunities my recovery has given me, it is really the profound internal changes that matter most.  I am not the person I was 25 ago.  Some parts of the country refer to these milestones as “birthdays,” which is very appropriate given that recovery means a chance at a new life filled with meaning, purpose, joy and love.  As I have often said, my story is not unique.  I am one of millions of Americans who found a way back from the grip of addiction through the kindness and caring of many, many people.

    Like many people with addictions, one of the biggest obstacles I faced in asking for help was that I could not imagine a life without drinking.  Even though my life was a disaster, I could not see how stopping would lead to a happy and fulfilling life.  What would people think of me if I said I had an addiction?  What would my boss think?  Would I ever have a social life again filled with friends?  I did not see people like me living a happy life in recovery.

    I can’t help but think that the recent Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage were in large part driven by the simple, yet courageous act of gay men and lesbians coming out to their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.  It changed public opinion and drove public policy.  The same was true with people with HIV and even people with cancer faced fear, shame and stigma.  When Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive, there was a significant increase in the number of people getting tested. ACT Up demanded expedited research and drug approval, funding for services and a compassionate response by the medical community. Any great movement to change public perception and public policy has often been fueled by people who are affected “coming out” of the shroud of secrecy and invisibility.

    Deputy Director Botticelli

    Photo: Deputy Director Botticelli representing ONDCP at the West Virginia Behavioral Health Conference.

    Yet, for too many people and their families, asking for help and seeking care for a substance use disorder is still saturated with shame.  Despite the fact that nearly every family and community in America is affected by addiction, it remains part of our collective denial. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, only about 1 in 10 people with a diagnosable substance use disorder get treatment at a specialty facility.  Compare this to diabetes where the treatment rate is 84%[1].  For those who do get treatment, it is often in the most acute stages where, even though effective, treatment is more challenging and costly.  The economic cost of excessive alcohol use is estimated to be $223 billion, with health care accounting for $24.6 billion of these costs.[2]  The economic cost of illicit drug use is estimated to be $197 billion, with health care accounting for $11.4 billion of these costs.[3]  None of these figures compare to the pain, anguish and grief addiction causes.

    Decades of scientific research have given us an irrefutable understanding of addiction as a health issue, a chronic medical condition with genetic, biologic and environmental risk factors.  It requires a comprehensive public health approach using evidenced-based prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery support services.  The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama Administration’s blueprint for drug policy, is based on this understanding. It puts forth more than 100 action items across federal government to prevent drug use and its consequences.  It dismisses a “war on drugs” approach, while acknowledging the vital role that federal, state and local law enforcement play in reducing the supply of drugs. With a public health framework at its foundation, the Strategy sets forth an agenda that tackles systemic challenges like over-criminalization, lack of integration with mainstream medical care, insurance coverage and legal barriers to fully restoring people to productive and meaningful lives. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act addresses some of these systemic issues by dramatically increasing coverage for treatment and ensuring that services are comparable to other chronic conditions for over 62 million Americans.

    All of these advancements, however, are not enough unless we fundamentally change the way many people think about addiction. The Parternship at DrugFree.org and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) estimate that there are more than 23 million individuals in recovery. Millions of people in recovery are living meaningful, productive lives full of joy and love and laughter—and I am just one of them. It is time for those of us in recovery, and those that care for and love us, to join the growing movement to put a face and voice to this disease; to lift the curtain of invisibility and to show others the endless possibilities of a life in recovery.  

    It is a time to make that simple, yet courageous decision to be counted, to be seen and to be heard.

    Michael Botticelli is the Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy.

    [1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Fact Sheet: national estimates and general information on diabetes and prediabetes in the United States, 2011. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.

    [2] Bochery, EE et al., 2011.  Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S., 2006.  American J. Preventive Medicine 41(5):516-524.

    [3] National Drug Intelligence Center.  2010.  National Threat Assessment: The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society.  Department of Justice, Washington, DC.


  • October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

    While substance use prevention is a year-round prioirity, during the month of October, the Office of National Drug Control Policy highlights and joins substance use prevention efforts across the country as part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. 

    Learn more about National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and read the Presidential Proclamation.