STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Is the Biden administration funding the distribution of "crack pipes" and heroin for drug use? No, that's not true: The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared none of the federal funds for harm reduction programs for drug addicts can be used to provide crack pipes. While a description of the HHS grants stated that the grantees would be required to buy materials like safe smoking kits and supplies to "enhance harm reduction efforts," such kits and supplies are just a few of the many materials that grantees can utilize. The content of such kits was not described in guidelines for the yet-to-be-distributed grants, but Secretary Xavier Becerra issued a statement February 9, 2022 ruling out any use of funds for crack pipes.
The claim, which partially originated from an article published by the Washington Free Beacon, appeared in an article (archived here) published by the Daily Caller on February 7, 2022, that was titled "Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipes, Heroin For Drug Addicts." The article opened:
President Joe Biden's administration is planning to facilitate drug use with a policy agenda reminiscent of those deployed in some major blue cities like San Francisco.
Biden's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) closed grant applications Monday for a plan to fund the distribution of crack pipes to drug addicts, the Washington Free Beacon first reported Monday. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) told The Associated Press Friday it's open to allowing 'safe injection sites' where drug addicts can use heroin and other dangerous drugs in an environment with protections against overdoses.
The crack pipe grant program will distribute $30 million to local governments and nonprofits in an attempt to make drug use safer, and it will begin in May. HHS said it will provide 'smoking kits/supplies' for addicts to reduce risks of infection when smoking with glass pipes.
Users on social media saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipes, Heroin For Drug Addicts
President Joe Biden's administration is planning to facilitate drug use with a policy agenda reminiscent of those deployed in some cities like San Francisco.
The Daily Caller has since issued a correction at the top of its article, saying:
*Correction: A previous headline for this story stated 'Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipes, Heroin For Drug Addicts'. The headline has been updated to clarify that the administration will grant money for safe syringe programs, which fund the distribution of clean needles, not heroin itself.
Here is the new headline published by The Daily Caller as of 21:15 UTC on February 9, 2022:
In a press release (archived here) published on February 9, 2022, HHS secretary Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) director Rahul Gupta said:
HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives. The Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities. We will continue working to address the addiction and overdose epidemic and ensure that our resources are used in the smartest and most efficient manner.
"Harm reduction" encompasses strategies used to minimize the negative effects of substance use.
Applications for the 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant closed on February 7, 2022, and the anticipated start date of the program is May 30, 2022. The grant description states that the funding's main purpose is to support harm reduction activities. It lists "Safe smoking kits/supplies," "Substance test kits, including test strips for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs" and "Syringes to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases" as some of the potential materials that grantees can use for harm reduction. However, there is no mention of the content of safe smoking kits in the grant description.
The article from the Washington Free Beacon claimed that an HHS spokesperson told the outlet "these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and 'any illicit substance.'" However, the article later stated:
An HHS spokesman declined to specify what is included in the smoking kits. Similar distribution efforts provide mouthpieces to prevent glass cuts, rubber bands to prevent burns, and filters to minimize the risk of disease.
These claims seem to contradict one another.
The Washington Free Beacon's reporting is also at odds with statements made on Twitter by Sarah Lovenheim, the assistant secretary for public affairs for the HHS, on February 8, 2022. In response to a video from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in which he says the Biden administration would send "crack pipes and meth pipes" to underserved communities, Lovenheim tweeted (archived here):
Blatant misinformation. The Harm Reduction grant is designed to help folks struggling with substance use stay healthy and safe, prevent overdose death. The grants must stick to federal, state, local laws or regs. https://t.co/HXRCrEM3tD-- Sarah Lovenheim (@HHS_Spox) February 8, 2022
Lovenheim then responded to backlash from Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who also repeated the "crack pipe distribution" claim. Lovenheim tweeted (archived here):
To be clear: HHS is not distributing crack pipes. The grants fund harm reduction efforts by organizations, in full adherence of state and local laws. https://t.co/mCHlh5sqPf-- Sarah Lovenheim (@HHS_Spox) February 8, 2022
In an email to Lead Stories on February 8, 2022, an HHS spokesperson said that the comments in the claim were "misleading and misinformed." They went on:
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 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.
Lead Stories also reached out to the Department of Justice for any additional information about the claim. We will update this story with any relevant response.
2022-02-09T21:14:33Z 2022-02-09T21:14:33ZUpdated to include new statement from the Secretary of Health and Human Services and to note the correction and revised headline published by The Daily Caller.