January 22, 2021

Portman, Shaheen, Capito, Whitehouse Introduce Bipartisan Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act to Combat Ongoing Drug Crisis

Legislation Will Provide Flexibility to Drug-Free Communities Coalitions During COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bipartisan Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act in order to provide flexibility to Drug-Free Communities (DFC) coalitions during the COVID-19 pandemic by temporarily allowing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the authority to waive the program’s local matching requirements if the grantee is unable to meet them due to the ongoing pandemic.

In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs. The Drug-Free Communities Act is designed to improve effectiveness and accountability in these programs by capping the amount spent on administrative and overhead expenses, requiring all coalitions that receive grants to have experience in drug abuse prevention, and to match federal funding with local funds. No other drug prevention program has achieved the same reduction in youth drug use that has been achieved consistently by the DFC program.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a heartbreaking surge in overdose deaths, which is why it is essential that we give these coalitions the flexibility they need in order to keep their programs running. The Drug-Free Communities program is a proven, evidence-based, and community-oriented program that reduces substance abuse among our nation’s youth. I authored this legislation more than 20 years ago during my time in the House of Representatives, and it remains today the most effective program for consistently reducing youth drug use. I founded the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, now PreventionFIRST!, as a comprehensive effort to address youth substance abuse, and it’s something I care deeply about,” said Senator Portman. “I have seen firsthand that prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and this funding helps youth throughout Ohio make better, more healthy choices. These grants will help those on the frontlines in Ohio combat this crisis as we work together to turn the tide of addiction. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we work together to combat the crisis of addiction gripping our country, and I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate to turn the tide of this drug epidemic.”

“Turning the tide on the substance use disorder epidemic requires a comprehensive approach that includes robust support for youth prevention efforts,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Drug-Free Communities program plays a crucial role in this effort by investing in frontline organizations that do tremendous work in New Hampshire and across the country to stop another generation from succumbing to this deadly epidemic. With the COVID-19 pandemic making it harder for those struggling with substance use disorder to get the care they need, ensuring these coalitions are able to continue to operate in our communities has never been more important. We have a new session of Congress with ample opportunity to make progress on bipartisan priorities and this should be at the top of the list. I’m glad to partner with Senators Portman, Capito and Whitehouse on this important bill and will keep working across the aisle to push it forward.”

“While we continue to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot forget about our ongoing battle against substance abuse. The Drug-Free Communities program has made a difference in the lives of young people in West Virginia, and during these tough times, we must give this program the flexibility it needs to continue its critical work. Grant matching requirements are the last thing struggling communities should be worried about during these times,” Senator Capito said.

“We’ve seen the heartbreaking effects of isolation and stress trigger a surge in overdose deaths during this pandemic,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure youth addiction prevention programs have the resources to do flexible, effective outreach during what has been a very trying time for people of all ages.”

NOTE: The bill is supported by: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA), NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), and National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC).

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921