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No, Biden administration is not giving out crack pipes. Here’s what’s really happening...

No, Biden administration is not giving out crack pipes. Here’s what’s really happening...

If you’ve been browsing through social media and keeping up with current events, you might’ve seen headlines suggesting the Biden administration is handing out free crack pipes.

No, the White House is not doing so and has shot down these reports. Here’s what’s actually going on.

A number of media outlets reported the White House is providing pipes to people addicted to drugs to smoke illicit substances such as crack cocaine. This comes after the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new grant program geared toward substance abuse and overdose prevention that would include funding for harm reduction strategies such as “safe smoking kits/supplies.”

“These comments are misleading and misinformed,” an HHS spokesperson told McClatchy News in a statement about the crack pipe claims that have sparked some outrage online.

The program is meant to “support community-based overdose prevention programs, syringe services programs, and other harm reduction services,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of HHS that’s in charge of the grant program. It’s authorized under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, according to the grant document.

“No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said in a statement Feb. 9. “The goal of harm reduction is to save lives.”

The agency said the funding is going “to enhance overdose and other types of prevention activities to help control the spread of infectious diseases and the consequences of such diseases for individuals with, or at risk of developing substance use disorders.”

A day before Becerra’s statement, news suggesting the false claim spread rapidly and unleashed waves of criticism from conservatives including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who wrote the president “is sending free meth & crack pipes to minority communities in the name of ‘racial equity,’” Feb. 8 on Twitter.

This led to the White House directly addressing the media claims with press secretary Jen Psaki calling it “inaccurate reporting.” Crack pipes “were never a part of” the safe smoking kits mentioned in the HHS grant, Psaki said at a Feb. 9 news conference. “We wanted to put out information to make that clear.”

When asked what the safe smoking kits would specifically include, Psaki said they “may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”

Psaki said that the grant program is one of the steps the Biden administration is taking to “address the opioid epidemic which is killing tens of thousands, if not more, Americans every single day, week, month of the year,” during the news conference.

She added that HHS put out the Feb. 9 statement because of the “inaccurate information out there.”

The grant funds can be used to support harm reduction efforts such as medication lock boxes, Food and Drug Administration overdose reversal medication, substance test kits such as fentanyl test strips, and “syringes to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases,” according to the grant document

The anticipated total funding is “up to $9,750,000 per year or $29,250,000 over 3 years,” according to SAMHSA.

“Too many Americans have lost their lives to drug overdose. Evidence-based community harm reduction services such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and syringe services programs help people stay alive and are proven strategies for addressing this tragic epidemic,” the HHS spokesperson told McClatchy News.

“The Harm Reduction Grant Program offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is designed to put these services within reach for Americans who are struggling with substance use so they can stay healthy and safe, avoid overdose death, and find pathways into evidence-based treatments.”

In November, the country’s first overdose prevention centers, supervised injection facilities, opened in New York City to address the opioid crisis, McClatchy News reported.

There were roughly 100,300 fatal drug overdoses nationwide “during a 12-month period ending in April 2021,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Julia Marnin

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