LaBelle heard from public health and safety leaders on the frontlines of the epidemic and discussed actions taken by the Biden-Harris Administration to save lives

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Regina LaBelle, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, visited Connecticut with U.S Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., to hear from local officials responding to the overdose epidemic. During the trip, Acting Director LaBelle discussed the Biden-Harris Administration’s first year Drug Policy Priorities and actions it has taken to expand evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, as well as its work to reduce the supply of illicit drugs.

“Today, Senator Blumenthal, Assistance Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Delphin-Rittmon and I heard directly from local health and public safety officials in Connecticut about ways they are working together to provide life-saving treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services to communities at a time when overdose deaths have reached a record high,” said Acting Director LaBelle. “It is an urgent priority of the Biden-Harris Administration to expand evidence-based approaches that will bend the curve on the epidemic. That is why, to better inform the response at the federal level, we are continuing to meet with local public health and safety officials on the frontlines who are working every day to save lives.”

“This pandemic has exacerbated a trend that was already building. No community is immune to the epidemic of overdose and addiction,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Acting Director LaBelle and Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon have been leaders in evidence-based recovery, prevention, and treatment and their focus is so important. I was so proud to have them both in Connecticut for a powerful discussion with frontline providers who serve our communities day in and day out.”

“Preventing overdose is a critical priority for SAMHSA as we work to reduce the impact of substance use and mental illness on America’s communities,” said Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon. “Thankfully, the Biden-Harris Administration, Senator Blumenthal and our delegation in Congress recognizes the behavioral health challenges Americans are facing, and support us with the resources needed to respond. Moreover, we must recognize the dedicated, community based providers and recovery organizations, who make recovery in all its forms possible.”

To start the day, Acting Director LaBelle, Senator Blumenthal, and Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon joined Governor Ned Lamont, U.S. Representative John Larson (CT-01), Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin, and Acting Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Nancy Navarretta for a discussion with local health officials on the frontlines of the overdose epidemic in Connecticut. Next, they toured the Connecticut Harm Reduction Alliance Mobile RV and the Liberation Programs Medication-Assisted Recovery Wellness Van –mobile vans that provide harm reduction services and medications for opioid use disorder to communities in Connecticut. During the tours, LaBelle discussed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) recent decision to lift a decade-long moratorium on opioid treatment programs that want to include a mobile component and the Administration’s priority to expand harm reduction services.

Then Acting Director LaBelle and Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon toured CCAR Manchester Recovery Community Center with Acting Commissioner Navarretta to learn more about the evidence-based recovery support services it offers to communities in Connecticut and discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing work to support those in recovery, including the President’s FY22 budget request which includes a historic set aside specifically for recovery services.

Later in the day, Acting Director LaBelle and Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon met with Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont and Acting Commissioner Navarretta to discuss state programs put in place to respond to the overdose epidemic, including the Naloxone + Overdose Response App (NORA), which is a free, interactive tool that provides information about naloxone, as well as the state’s real-time overdose reporting program.

In the afternoon, Acting Director LaBelle also met with DEA agents, New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program members, and Connecticut State Police and Hartford Police Department officers to learn about their ongoing efforts to disrupt drug trafficking in Connecticut and across the region and discuss current and emerging threats facing New England.

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 eight 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.
  • 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 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (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.
  • ONDCP hosted more than 300 State, local, and Tribal leaders from all 50 States, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands for a virtual convening entitled “Opioid Litigation Settlement: Using Evidence to Lead Action.” At the convening, government officials, researchers, and experts discussed how State, local, and Tribal governments can use evidence and data to guide decisions about how funds from opioid litigation can be spent to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, while advancing equity.
  • ONDCP, HHS, and DOJ presented to Congress the Biden-Harris Administration’s recommendations for a long-term, consensus approach to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl-related substances (FRS), while protecting civil rights and reducing barriers to scientific research for all Schedule I substances.
  • ONDCP announced $13.2 million in grants for 106 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Programs across the country working to prevent youth substance use, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. In June, ONDCP announced $3.2 million for 65 communities nationwide for its Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crisis Program to reduce youth substance use.

In addition to these actions, the President’s FY22 budget request calls for $20.6 billion, including more than $500 million to expand 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 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.

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