ONDCP Acting Director Regina LaBelle Visits Western Maryland and Meets with Local Officials Responding to the Overdose Epidemic
LaBelle joined U.S. Congressman David Trone and discussed actions taken by the Biden-Harris Administration to bend the curve on the epidemic and save lives
FREDERICK, MD – Today, Regina LaBelle, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, visited Western Maryland with U.S. Congressman David Trone (MD-06), co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, to hear from local health officials and members of law enforcement about ways they are working to expand access to treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services for people with substance use disorder and to reduce the supply of illicit drugs. They also discussed the Biden-Harris Administration’s first year Drug Policy Priorities and actions it has taken to address addiction and the overdose epidemic.
“Congressman Trone and I were able to see firsthand how local officials are working together to expand access to life-saving treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services in Western Maryland, which has been hit particularly hard by the overdose epidemic,” said Acting Director LaBelle. “The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on expanding evidence-based approaches to addiction across the country, and supporting communities on the frontlines of this epidemic, including the leaders we heard from today. We will continue listening to them to make sure the work we do on the federal level is responsive to the needs of local communities.”
“It was an honor to be joined today by Acting Director Regina LaBelle to learn more about addiction and treatment services in Frederick and Washington Counties and to listen to the voices of those in recovery,” said Congressman David Trone. “Connecting the Biden-Harris agenda to combat addiction and mental illness with the resources and treatment services on the ground will be key to ending the epidemic that killed over 93,000 people last year and is only getting worse.”
To start the day, LaBelle and Trone heard treatment providers from the Frederick County Department of Health and discussed the need to expand evidence-based treatment, including Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), and recovery support services for all communities. Next, LaBelle and Trone toured the Meritus Medical Center, which is expanding access to evidence-based treatment for those with substance use disorder. In the afternoon, LaBelle and Trone participated in a discussion with local officials from the Maryland Health Department, the Washington County Health Department, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. LaBelle discussed actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to expand access to harm reduction services and underscored the President’s commitment to ensuring more communities have access to those services.
During the trip, LaBelle and Trone also met with members of the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, representatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and local law enforcement to discuss ongoing efforts to reduce illicit drug supply in the region.
Background on Administration actions on addiction and the overdose epidemic:
In its first-year drug policy priorities, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined a strategy that includes expanding access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, as well reducing the supply of illicit drugs. Since January, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has worked with other agencies across the government to advance President Biden’s drug policy priorities. Among the actions taken in the first six months of the Biden-Harris Administration are:
- The American Rescue Plan invested nearly $4 billion to allow the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital mental health and substance use disorder services. The funding also included $30 million in supports for harm reduction services—a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs.
- HHS released the Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder, which exempt eligible health care providers from Federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services that are part of the process for obtaining a waiver to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine. This action expands access to evidence-based treatment by removing a critical barrier to buprenorphine prescribing.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lifted a decade-long moratorium on opioid treatment programs that want to include a mobile component. This rule change will help provide treatment to rural and other underserved communities, including incarcerated individuals.
- CDC and SAMHSA announced that Federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.
- ONDCP designated six new counties as part of its HIDTA program. These counties, located in states like California, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, will receive support for regional law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.
- ONDCP provided funding for the nationwide expansion of the HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The Strategy brings together drug intelligence officers and public health analysts at the local and regional level to share information and develop evidence-based intervention and support services that reduce overdoses.
- ONDCP provided funding to support the establishment of state-level model legislation that advances efforts to expand access to harm reduction services, as well as promote equity in access to treatment and drug enforcement efforts for underserved communities.
In addition to these actions, the President’s FY22 budget request calls for $10.7 billion to support research, prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, with targeted investments to meet the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) FY22 request includes $3.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, which for the first time includes a 10% set aside for recovery services. The FY22 budget request also includes significant investments in reducing the supply of illicit substances. In particular, it includes important increases in interdiction efforts, which include air and maritime activities to seize drugs in transit and deter access to routes, enhancements of source nations’ ability to interdict drugs, and efforts along the United States border to interdict the flow of drugs. The FY22 request also continues to support efforts to strengthen source country programs that address drug trafficking and corruption, strengthen the rule of law and anti-corruption activities, promote human rights, and support development programs.