Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Leahy, Grassley Bill To Reauthorize Drug Free Communities Program

WASHINGTON (Thursday, March 29, 2012) – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation authored by the Committee’s Chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Ranking Member, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 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 myth persists that drug abuse and drug-related crime are only big-city problems, but rural America, including Vermont, is also coping with these issues,” said Leahy.  “Vermont’s community-based approach to fighting drug use and abuse is supported by Drug Free Community grants.  Congress should continue to support this vital program.”

“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. 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.”

The bill approved Thursday 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. 

An amendment adopted during Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee reverted a directed grant under the program to a competitive grant.  The grant, which would provide resources to an organization to provide technical assistance to all Drug Free Community grantees, was originally a competitive grant under the program’s first authorization.

The reauthorization legislation introduced by Leahy and Grassley reduces annual authorizations of Drug Free Community Grants by $29 million.  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. 

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