WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Dave Joyce’s (OH-14) legislation to ensure local youth addiction prevention coalitions have the resources necessary to continue their important work during the ongoing pandemic. The Drug Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act, which Joyce introduced alongside Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06), passed by a bipartisan vote of 395-30.
“As the former Geauga County Prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand how addiction has devastated communities in Northeast Ohio and know how important it is to support local efforts that reduce and prevent youth drug use,” said Joyce. “I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support of my important legislation to provide the Drug-Free Communities Program with the resources and flexibility it needs to continue to combat the opioid crisis amid the ongoing pandemic. With more Americans dying from drug overdoses than ever before, it is critical that we do everything we can to support and empower those working on the front lines in our communities to reduce and prevent addiction among our children.”
Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, the Drug-Free Communities Program provides funding to local coalitions that engage multiple sectors of their communities in order to reduce and prevent substance use disorder among young Americans. This evidence-based and community-oriented program, which was created by legislation authored by then-U.S. Rep. Rob Portman in 1997, has consistently achieved a larger reduction in youth drug use than any other drug prevention program. As of Fiscal Year 2019, the Drug-Free Communities Program served approximately 2.3 million middle school students ages 12 to 14 and 3.2 million high school students ages 15 to 18.
Unfortunately, hundreds of coalitions have reported being unable to meet the program’s local matching requirements due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Joyce’s legislation would address this unique challenge by temporarily allowing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the authority to waive the program’s local matching requirements if the grantee is unable to meet them due to the ongoing pandemic.
Prior to the vote, Joyce urged support for his legislation in light of the historic number of overdose deaths recorded in 2020 and the unprecedented flow of fentanyl into the United States. Recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency warned that counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are spreading across the country and recorded record seizures of these drugs in Ohio and Michigan. You can watch Joyce’s remarks in full here.