03.06.12

Leahy, Grassley Introduce Bill To Reauthorize Drug Free Communities Program

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, March 6, 2012) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the critical Drug Free Communities (DFC) Program, which provides valuable grants to help community coalitions respond to serious drug and substance abuse problems in their communities.  The bill is cosponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.).

The legislation introduced Tuesday will reauthorize the Drug Free Communities Program through 2017.  Under the program, community coalitions qualify for grant assistance through the program 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.  Drug Free Community grants help coalitions that bring together parents, teachers, business leaders, local media, religious leaders, and law enforcement to help reduce the demand for drugs.  The grants also help provide specialized training and technical assistance to improve the operation of DFC coalitions.  Drug Free Community Grants are matched dollar for dollar by receiving coalitions. 

“It is crucial that communities around the country have the support and resources needed to respond to serious drug problems in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. This program encourages local citizens to become directly involved in solving their community’s drug issues,” said Leahy. “In Vermont, we have felt the presence of drug abuse and drug-related crime in our communities, and prescription drug abuse is on the rise.  The myth persists that drug abuse and drug-related crime are only big-city problems, but rural America is also coping with these issues.”

“The people in the local communities are the first to recognize the emergence of new drug threats,” Grassley said.  “They’re also well-equipped to know what works best on the local level to curb drug abuse, whether its kids warning other kids or law enforcement working to cut off supplies.  These grants support communities and not more layers of government in Washington, D.C. This legislation is not a complete reauthorization of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy but a reauthorization of one anti-drug program administered by the White House.   We’re selecting the program that arguably works the best and hasn’t had problems come to light.   At my request, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Government Accountability Office is studying the effectiveness and management of federal drug demand reduction programs on youth drug use, including this program.  Oversight is important to make sure these programs get the most bang for the taxpayers’ buck.”

Since 2004, Vermont has received more than $10 million in Drug Free Community grants to aid in the effort to curb substance abuse.  Funding to community coalitions has been shown to significantly lower substance abuse across the state. Last year, eight Vermont coalitions were awarded over $946,000 in DFC grants.

Drug Free Community program grants have proven to significantly reduce substance abuse rates in communities and provide crucial assistance to law enforcement efforts to curb drug related crime around the country. Since its establishment, the DFC program has helped to fund nearly 2,000 coalitions and 9,000 volunteers that work in concert with law enforcement to provide prevention, education, and treatment services within their communities.

Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Grassley is the ranking member of the panel.  In recent years, Leahy has brought the Judiciary Committee to Vermont for a series of hearings examining the state’s community-based approach to addressing drug abuse. 

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On Introduction of The Drug Free Communities Reauthorization Act Of 2012

March 6, 2012

Today, I am pleased to join with Senator Grassley to introduce the Drug Free Communities Reauthorization Act of 2012, a bill to reauthorize the successful Drug Free Communities Program.  It is crucial that communities around the country have the support and resources needed to respond to serious drug problems in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.  Drug Free Community (DFC) coalitions have been proven to significantly lower substance abuse rates in our communities nationwide.

The DFC program encourages local citizens to become directly involved in solving their community’s drug issues through grassroots organizing and data-driven approaches.  Since the program’s inception, DFC grants, which must be matched dollar for dollar, have helped to fund nearly 2,000 coalitions and have mobilized nearly 9,000 community volunteers. Today’s legislation will reauthorize the DFC Program for an additional five years, at a reduced rate to reflect current fiscal realities. The community coalition model has proven extremely effective and has achieved impressive outcomes.  It is critical that today’s bill become law.

The DFC Program strategically invests Federal anti-drug resources at the community level with those who have the most power to reduce the demand for drugs – parents, teachers, business leaders, local media, religious leaders, law enforcement, youth, and others in the community.  Grantees execute collaborative strategies to address their communities’ unique substance use and abuse issues.  This is the optimal way to ensure that the entire community benefits from prevention.  I have consistently supported funding for these coalitions, and was pleased that last year, eight Vermont coalitions were awarded Drug Free Community grants totaling $946,852.

In Vermont, we have felt the presence of drug abuse and drug-related crime in our communities, and prescription drug abuse is on the rise.  The myth persists that drug abuse and drug-related crime are only big-city problems, but rural America is also coping with these issues.  I have brought the Judiciary Committee to Vermont several times to examine these problems and gain perspectives to help shape solutions.   One thing is clear.  Law enforcement, while crucial, cannot solve the problem on its own.  Reducing substance abuse requires a comprehensive approach with equal attention to law enforcement, prevention and education, and treatment, all with active community buy-in.   

We see significant results in the fight against youth drug abuse when we have people working together at the local, state, and Federal levels, and in the law enforcement, prevention, and treatment fields.  We have seen success driven by DFC coalitions in Vermont and throughout the country, but there is more work to be done.  Drug abuse and drug-related crime is a persistent problem in major metropolitan areas and rural communities alike.  I hope all Senators will support this bipartisan bill so that communities nationwide can sustain effective community coalitions to reduce youth drug use. 

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