President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) disproportionately funneled money to blue states like California and New York for anti-overdose services earlier this year, with little money sent to areas hit hard by the opioid epidemic in the rust belt, according to government grant records.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded nearly $10 million to 25 different harm reduction organizations across the country in May, and 10 of the 25 grants went to organizations in New York and California, according to a review by the Daily Caller. Three of the five states with the worst overdose death rates in the country, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, did not receive any grants.
The grants awarded went to organizations that deploy “harm reduction” strategies to combat overdoses. The Biden administration has embraced harm reduction as its method to battle the opioid epidemic, which involves facilitating safer drug use for addicts through programs like clean needle exchanges.
“Harm reduction… encompasses some sensible policies, such as the distribution of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. But promoting drug use as empowering and safe is irresponsible and deadly.” Free needles might be in latter category. #moleg https://t.co/JgIVEmceoz
— Dr. Bob Onder (@BobOnderMO) June 30, 2022
Ten of the 25 grants, running nearly $400,000 each, went to New York- and California-based organizations — six to the former, four to the latter. That means 40% of the grants, and just over 40% of the money awarded, $3,988,874, went to two states which account for about 15% of America’s total overdose deaths, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
Only two other states, Texas and Florida, received multiple grants — three and two, respectively. West Virginia, the state with the highest overdose rate in the country, more than triple New York’s and almost quadruple California’s, did not receive any of the 25 grants. (RELATED: Taliban Declares War On Drugs, Bans Poppy Farming)
The lack of grants awarded to some states with high overdose rates could be a result, in part, of them not having as many harm reduction organizations. However, SAMHSA did not respond to a request from the Daily Caller for a full list of grant applicants to see how many applicants came from each state. SAMHSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the course of several weeks about multiple aspects of this report.
Republican West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told the Daily Caller he wants the Biden administration to do more to help his state fight the overdose crisis: “We have been pressing the Biden administration to do more to address the opioid epidemic particularly when it comes to securing our Southern border against the flood of fentanyl that is killing so many Americans.”
However, the emphasis on harm reduction by the administration may continue to plague middle-America. According to a tracking map by the National Harm Reduction Coalition, harm reduction organizations are heavily concentrated along the coasts and in major metropolitan areas, and far more sparse throughout the midwest.