Portman pushes to save Drug-Free Communities program

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, is fighting to reverse a proposal from the Trump administration to cut the Drug-Free Communities program. The program is funded through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which intends to zero out the funding for the program Portman co-authored in the late 1990s. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, is fighting to reverse a proposal from the Trump administration to cut the Drug-Free Communities program. The program is funded through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which intends to zero out the funding for the program Portman co-authored in the late 1990s. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is pushing to reverse a proposed cut to the Drug-Free Communities program, a program he helped co-author in the late 1990s.

Portman last week was furious with the reports that the Trump administration was proposing to slash the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy by nearly 95 percent, according to a memo obtained by CBS News and Politico.

Reports indicated the Office of Management and Budget proposed cutting about half the office staff, along with intelligence, research and budget functions of the agency, according to reports.

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“We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country, and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic,” Portman said.

According to the White House budget proposal, the office would receive $24 million in fiscal year 2018. It received $388 million in federal funding for fiscal year 2017.

The cuts would eliminate funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking and Drug-Free Communities programs, which received $254 million and $100 million, respectively in FY 2017.

Today, Portman and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Michigan, the other co-author of the Drug-Free Communities Act signed into law in 1997, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney expressing concerns on the proposal to the proposal to cut all funding to program they helped to create.

“The Drug-Free Communities program is a proven, evidence-based, and accountable program that reduces substance abuse among youths,” according to the Portman and Levin letter. “The opioid epidemic is a serious problem that affects millions of young people and their families. We urge you to put their interest first, and fully fund the program for (fiscal year) 2018.”

The Portman-Levin letter also outlines that Drug-Free Communities program worked to reduce substance abuse in youths in more than 600 communities nationwide, and provided support to 10.7 million middle and high school students since its inception.

Portman has been a legislative champion on combating the opioid epidemic in Ohio and the country.

He authored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that passed nearly unanimously (two senators and five congressmen voted ‘no’) and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in July 2016.

The Cincinnati senator also introduced the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act, which is designed to help stop synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders, and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which would require the use of prescription drug monitoring programs in all states that received certain federal funding to combat opioid abuse.

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