March 16, 2022

Kilmer’s Bipartisan Legislation to Help Communities Address Ongoing Opioid Crisis Signed Into Law

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) announced that the Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Rep. Dave Joyce (OH-14), was signed into law as part of the twelve-bill spending package to fund the federal government.

The legislation, which passed the House in October 2021, helps provide flexibility for community programs focused on the prevention of drug abuse and misuse. Specifically, the legislation helps Drug-Free Communities (DFC) coalitions during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they can continue to serve local communities. The legislation temporarily allows 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.

“Too many communities and too many families have struggled with the opioid epidemic. Across our region, we’ve seen local efforts funded through the Drug-Free Communities Program that have played a critical role in preventing and reducing substance use,” said Rep. Kilmer. “However, these efforts have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why I’m proud that President Biden has signed into law our bipartisan plan to help make sure that these community-based programs have the resources they need – today and in the future – to make a difference.” 

“With more Americans dying from drug overdoses than ever before, we have to do everything in our power to reduce and prevent addiction among our nation’s children,” said Rep. Joyce. “That’s why I introduced the Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act with Congressman Kilmer. I am grateful that our important legislation has been signed into law so that the federal government can effectively support those working on the front lines in our communities to reduce and prevent youth drug use.”

The DFC program, which was created in 1997, supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs. The Drug-Free Communities Act is designed to improve effectiveness and accountability in these programs by capping the amount spent on administrative and overhead expenses, requiring all coalitions that receive grants to have experience in drug abuse prevention, and to match federal funding with local funds. No other drug prevention program has achieved the same reduction in youth drug use that has been achieved consistently by the DFC program. In fact, 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.

In 2018, the U.S. saw its first decline in drug overdose deaths in nearly 30 years. But that progress is quickly being erased. In 2019, fatal drug overdoses hit a record high, accounting for the deaths of 70,980 Americans. Recent data from the CDC shows that more than half of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This trend has been ongoing as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact the mental health and economic security of Americans across the country. 

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

The bill is supported by: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA), NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), and National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC).