Editors' note: The reporting from the Washington Free Beacon sourced in this article was fact-checked by Lead Stories and AFP after the White House on Wednesday said that crack pipes "were never a part of the kit. It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear." The White House made this clarification after HHS released a statement that read:
"Today, on the heels or organizations applying for grant money for harm reduction efforts, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta released the following statement:
"'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 additional, 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 in 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."
In response to that statement, the Washington Post's resident fact-checker Glenn Kessler remarked that the statement is "carefully worded." "Unlike WH comment, there is no suggestion that the original reporting on crack pipes was wrong. The use of the word 'Accordingly' suggests a change in policy without directly saying so."
The statement from HHS triggered another response, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, titled "Health Policy Must be Driven by Evidence, Not Dictated by Clickbait." This statement indicated that HHS had backtracked on their original intention. "Backtracking on Providing Evidence-Based 'Safer Smoking Supplies' is a Huge Missed Opportunity," the statement was titled.
It went on to say that the statement, on why including pipes in safe smoking kits is essential, read that it was in response to the HHS "statement that they will no longer be allowing federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies..." This indicates that it was the understanding of the Office of National Drug Control Policy that HHS "harm reduction" grants would be facilitating the purchase of safe smoking kits that did include "glass pipes."
Park MacDougald of Unherd said that he reached out to HHS for clarification on the Free Beacon's story after the story was fact-checked. He obtained from HHS the email exchange between the Free Beacon's Patrick Hauf and the agency. It read:
"Reporter: Just to confirm, these kits [are] intended to help users reduce risk when smoking crack and meth?
"HHS: I wouldn’t limit [it] to those two substances. It would reference 'any illicit substance.'"
MacDougald specified that "According to the spokesperson, the story was inaccurate because the reporter had not specifically asked about pipes — merely confirmed funding for 'safe smoking kits' that almost always include pipes — and had not included language that funded programmes must comply with federal, state, and local laws."
An HHS spokesperson said in response to claims that crack pipes would be funded via harm reduction grants: "HHS is not distributing crack pipes. The grants fund harm reduction efforts by organizations, in full adherence of state and local laws."
Original story follows.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that the $30 million grant program which includes the funds for "pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and 'any illicit substance'" are being provided by the Department of Health and Human services to "underserved communities."
This program will prioritize those in "underserved communities," which includes black and "LGBTQ+ persons," per Biden's executive orders on "advancing racial equality." The grant program will run for three years, and includes awards of $400,000 for 25 municipal applicants.
HHS writes that "Behavioral health equity refers to the right to access quality health care for all populations regardless of the individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders.
"Advancing health equity involves ensuring that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. In conjunction with quality services, this involves addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), such as employment and housing stability, insurance status, proximity to services, culturally responsive care – all of which have an impact on behavioral health outcomes.
"The behavioral health disparity impact statement is in alignment with the expectations related to Executive Order 13985 'Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.'"
"Harm reduction" equipment that will be facilitated through the program include: "Harm reduction vending machine(s), including stock for machines; Infectious diseases testing kits (HIV, HBV, HCV, etc.); Medication lock boxes; and FDA-approved overdose reversal medication (as well as higher dosages now approved by FDA)."
Also included are "safe sex kits," "safe smoking kits/supplies," infectious disease screening, as well as "Sharps disposal and medication disposal kits; Substance test kits, including test strips for fentanyl and other synthetic drugs; Syringes to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases; Vaccination services (hepatitis A, hepatitis B vaccination); and Wound care management supplies."
In response to the reporting that safe smoking kits would be provided by HHS, the White House said that it was not true that these kits included crack pipes, and that this was not accurate reporting.
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that crack pipes "were never a part of the kit. It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear."
However, many safe smoking kits do include pipes. The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, in their report on how to use crack in a safer manner, includes in their safer smoking kit a mouthpiece for a pipe, rubber bands, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, antiseptic towelettes, filters for the pipe stem, screens for the pipes, vitamins, and condoms. They suggest a glass or metal pipe to be used with the mouthpiece and advises users to smoke out of "straight glass shooters."
Interior Health Canada provides glass pipes as part of their safer smoking kits, for crack and meth smokers. Part of the reasoning of providing pipes is to prevent people from injecting the drugs.
This program joins others that facilitate drug use by drug users by providing the means for them to use drugs. Safe injections sites have opened in many locations across the US.
The president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police spoke to the Free Beacon, saying that programs preventing, rather than facilitating, drug use would be of more use.
"If we look at more of a preventive campaign as opposed to an enabling campaign, I think it will offer an opportunity to have safer communities with fewer people who are dependable on these substances," said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright.
President Biden's son Hunter Biden reported in his own memoir that he was a longtime drug user, including partaking in crack cocaine use.
"The purpose of the program," HHS writes, "is to support community-based overdose prevention programs, syringe services programs, and other harm reduction services.
"Funding will be used 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 (SUD), support distribution of FDA-approved overdose reversal medication to individuals at risk of overdose, build connections for individuals at risk for, or with, a SUD to overdose education, counseling, and health education, refer individuals to treatment for infectious diseases, such as HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and viral hepatitis, and encourage such individuals to take steps to reduce the negative personal and public health impacts of substance use or misuse.
"This will include supporting capacity development to strengthen harm reduction programs as part of the continuum of care. Recipients will also establish processes, protocols, and mechanisms for referral to appropriate treatment and recovery support services. Grantees will also provide overdose prevention education to their target populations regarding the consumption of substances including but not limited to opioids and their synthetic analogs. Funds may also be used to help address the stigma often associated with risky behaviors and participation in harm reduction activities."
This article was updated with comments from the White House.