02.24.10

Leahy Introduces Bill To Help Community Coalitions Fight Local Drug Issues

WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday introduced legislation to authorize a federal grant program to help communities address local emerging drug issues.  The Drug Free Communities (DFC) Enhancement Act will authorize additional grants to assist community coalitions that help to lower substance abuse, and will sharpen the focus of the grant program on emerging and local drug issues.  Fourteen coalitions in Vermont receive assistance from Drug Free Communities grants.

The Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act will allow current and former DFCs to apply for grants of up to $75,000 per year for up to four years to implement comprehensive, community-wide strategies to address local drug crises.  The funds may also be used for DFC grantees to obtain specialized training and technical assistance to improve the operation of their 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.

“In Vermont, we have felt the presence of drug abuse and drug-related crime in our communities,” said Leahy.  “The community coalition model has proven extremely effective, and has achieved impressive outcomes.  We see significant results 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 that success in Vermont and throughout the country, but there is more work to be done.  Communities nationwide who are facing serious drug issues will benefit from these enhancement grants.”

Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he has twice brought the Committee to Vermont to hear from state and local leaders about how Vermont communities are developing and implementing creative strategies to address drug-related crime in rural communities.  At a hearing in St. Albans in December 2008, Angela Baker of the Division of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs at the Vermont Department of Health testified about the proven successes of anti-drug coalitions in Vermont who receive funding from the Drug Free Community grant program.

Leahy said, “Last week, I spoke with a number of Vermonters representing these community partnerships and heard about the innovative frameworks they have implemented to combat drug abuse in their communities, thanks in large part to DFC grants.  This bill will enable many of them to secure supplemental funding to continue the important work they do every day.” 

Community coalitions qualify for 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.  Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act authorizes funding from 2011 through 2015.

The Leahy-authored legislation is cosponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa).

Fourteen coalitions in Bennington, Cabot, Hardwick, Isle La Motte, Ludlow, Manchester Center, Milton, Montpelier, Northfield, Shelburne, St. Albans, Wilmington, and Windsor received $1.2 million in federal grant money last year from the Drug Free Communities program.

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

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On Introduction Of The Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act Of 2010

February 24, 2010

Today, I am pleased to join with Senator Grassley to introduce the Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act of 2010, a bill to authorize additional Drug Free Communities grants to help address major emerging drug issues and local drug crises.  It is crucial that communities around the country have the leadership 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.

This legislation 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 local drug issues or drug crises.  The funds may also be used for DFC members to obtain specialized training and technical assistance to improve the operation of their coalitions.  These grants, which must be matched dollar for dollar, would be available to DFCs for up to four years.

The DFC program encourages local citizens to become directly involved in solving their community’s drug issues through grassroots community organizing and data-driven planning and implementation.  Research shows that effective prevention hinges on the extent to which the entire community works comprehensively and collaboratively to implement education, prevention, enforcement, treatment, and recovery initiatives.  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 – namely parents, teachers, business leaders, the media, religious leaders, law enforcement officials, youth, and others.  Drug Free Communities 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.

In Vermont, we have felt the presence of drug abuse and drug-related crime in our communities.  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 twice brought the Judiciary Committee to Vermont to examine these problems and gain perspectives to help shape solutions, and I hope to hold another field hearing in Vermont soon.  I know well that law enforcement alone is not the solution for our communities.  I have long advocated an approach with equal attention to law enforcement, prevention and education, and treatment. 

Perhaps the most important component in dealing with this crucial problem is collaboration.  Community anti-drug coalitions have a unique ability to build on pre-existing relationships among parents, teachers, students, and law enforcement, which make them a critical component in reducing drug use.  I have consistently supported funding for these coalitions and was pleased that last year 14 Vermont coalitions were awarded Drug Free Community grants totaling $1.2 million.

Last week, I spoke with a number of Vermonters representing these community partnerships and heard about the innovative frameworks they have implemented to combat drug abuse in their communities, thanks in large part to DFC grants.  This bill will enable many of them to secure supplemental funding to continue the important work they do every day.  Indeed, communities nationwide who are facing serious drug issues will benefit from these enhancement grants.      

The community coalition model has proven extremely effective, and has achieved impressive outcomes.  We see significant results 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 that success 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 America, 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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