Judiciary Committee Advances Leahy, Grassley Drug Free Communities Bill

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to advance legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to authorize additional Drug Free Communities (DFC) grants that will assist community coalitions in lowering substance abuse rates in neighborhoods across the country.  Leahy chairs the panel, and Grassley is a senior member of the Committee.

Leahy and Grassley introduced the Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act in February.  The bill will allow current and former DFCs to apply for grants of up to $75,000 per year to implement comprehensive, community-wide strategies to address emerging drug trends or local drug crises.  Community coalitions qualify for supplemental Drug Free Community grants if local data shows evidence of drug use and abuse rates above the national average, or if rates of use and abuse for a specific drug continue over a sustained period of time.  Grant applicants must submit a detailed, comprehensive, multi-sector plan for addressing the emerging local drug issue or crisis within the area served by the applicant.  Applicants are eligible for grants up to $75,000 per year for up to four years. 

“I have spoken with a number of Vermonters representing these community partnerships, and I have heard about the innovative frameworks they have implemented to combat drug abuse in their communities, thanks in large part to Drug Free Communities grants,” said Leahy.  “This legislation will enable many of those communities to secure additional funding to continue their efforts.  Communities nationwide are facing serious drug issues, and will benefit from these enhancement grants.  I thank Senator Grassley for his partnership on this issue, and I hope the Senate will quickly pass this legislation.”

“Grassroots organizations are creating strategies to fight drug abuse in their own communities and succeeding.  Their efforts have made a real difference on the frontlines.  It’s clear that Drug Free Communities grantees know how to best meet the challenges faced by a particular community,” Grassley said.  “Now, the enhancement grants will add another tool to help these groups identify new and emerging drug abuse issues and work to defeat the threat to their kids and families.”

The Judiciary Committee has oversight of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; the DFC federal grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Drug Free Community grants may also be used to obtain specialized training and technical assistance to improve the operation of DFC coalitions.  The program is a matching grant program, and DFC grantees are eligible to receive federal funds up to the amount of funds raised by the organization.  The Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act authorizes funding from 2011 through 2015.  An amendment adopted by the Judiciary Committee Thursday incorporates additional oversight and transparency provisions into the legislation.

Leahy and Grassley have partnered on several legislative and oversight efforts over the years.  Last year they teamed to author the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which was signed into law in May.

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