Washington, D.C. — Today, Regina LaBelle, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, announced the Biden-Harris Administration’s Drug Policy Priorities for the Administration’s first year. The seven priorities propose specific and targeted actions to reduce overdoses and promote recovery, including expanding access to quality treatment, reducing an increasingly lethal supply of illicit substances, and enhancing harm reduction services that engage and build trust with people who use drugs (PWUD), among others. These actions are critical at a moment when the latest provisional data from the CDC shows that 88,000 people died of an overdose in the 12-month period ending in August 2020*, a 26.8% increase, year-over-year. The implementation of these priorities will complement President Biden’s tireless efforts to give American families the tools they need to build back better.
President Biden has made clear that addressing the overdose and addiction epidemic is an urgent priority for his administration. The American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law in March 2021, appropriated nearly $4 billion to enable the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital behavioral health services. The release of these priorities will serve as guideposts to ensure that the Federal government promotes evidence-based public health and public safety actions, with a pointed focus on racial equity in drug policy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the addiction and overdose epidemic, leaving many families and communities hurting,” said Regina LaBelle, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy. “These priorities lay out the aggressive, evidence-based, whole-of-government response that we need to implement in the first year of this Administration in order to bend the curve. ”
The seven Biden-Harris Administration drug policy priorities for the first year are:
- Expanding access to evidence-based treatment, particularly medication for opioid use disorder. This includes removing unnecessary barriers to buprenorphine prescribing and contingency management interventions, modernizing methadone treatment, and identifying steps to complete the recommendations of the 2016 Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force.
- Advancing racial equity in our approach to drug policy. This includes identifying unmet needs related to drug policy in diverse communities, developing priorities for criminal justice reform, and identifying culturally competent, evidence-based practices for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color across the continuum of care that includes prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services.
- Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts. This includes supporting Syringe Services Programs, examining availability of the lifesaving overdose antidote naloxone, and promoting research on emerging harm reduction practices.
- Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use. This includes ensuring programs receiving Federal grant funding are using evidence-based approaches, and identifying opportunities for the Drug-Free Communities Support Program to enhance culturally competent prevention programming.
- Reducing the supply of illicit substances. This includes working with key global partners such as China, Colombia, and Mexico to curb illicit drug production and trafficking, supporting local law enforcement to disrupt and dismantle domestic drug trafficking networks, and strengthening efforts to halt illicit Internet drug sales.
- Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce. This includes reducing the barriers to employment for people in recovery from addiction, requesting that agencies support training for clinicians in addiction and identify vocational programs that can expand the addiction workforce, and seeking opportunities to expand the workforce of bilingual prevention professionals and peer specialists.
- Expanding access to recovery support services. This includes working with partners to develop sustainability protocols for recovery housing, including certification, payment models, evidence-based practice, and technical assistance.
In particular, the focus on harm reduction and racial equity confronts longstanding challenges with ensuring equitable treatment in the healthcare and criminal justice systems, building trust with PWUD, and breaking the stigma of addiction that prevents people from accessing lifesaving services. ONDCP intends to work closely with agencies and Congress to meet these priorities.
By statute, this statement of policy priorities is due to Congress by April 1 in the year of a presidential inauguration, and it takes the place of a full National Drug Control Strategy. To read the document, click here.
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics System, Vital Statistics Rapid Release. “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts.” Accessed March 15, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm