White House proposes 95% budget reduction for 'drug czar' office: 7 things to know

The Trump administration has proposed cutting the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from $388 million to $24 million, according to a report from The New York Times.

The proposed 2018 budget cuts represent a possible 95 percent budget decrease for the office, according to a document from the Office of Management and Budget obtained by the NYT.

Here are seven things to know about the Trump administration's budget proposal.

1. The cuts could result in the termination of 33 employees.

2. The budget reduction would also eliminate grants to initiatives like the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program and the Drug-Free Communities Support Program. The Trump administration views these programs as redundancies of other federal and state initiatives, according to the budget document obtained by the Times.

3. Rich Baum, who was appointed head of the ONDCP by President Donald Trump, expressed distress over the proposed cuts in an email to staff May 5, according to the Times.

"These drastic proposed cuts are frankly heartbreaking and, if carried out, would cause us to lose many good people who contribute greatly to ONDCP's mission and core activities," wrote Mr. Baum. "I don't want to see this happen."

4. A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget told the NYT the proposal is still under review.

5. While many advocacy groups expressed concern about the potential cuts, some said changes to the ONDCP could ultimately be helpful, as the nation's opioid epidemic has intensified under the office's watch.

"The reality is that ONDCP is an agency in dire need of reform," said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, according to the Times. Mr. Smith said the grant programs targeted by the proposed cuts "are a phenomenal waste of money that contribute to the incarceration and stigmatization of drug users."

6. Democrats characterized the proposed cuts as a broken promise by President Trump who, as a presidential candidate, spoke frequently about his commitment to address the opioid epidemic once taking office.

"This is a cruel betrayal by [President] Trump," said Daniel Wessel, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, according to the Times. "Throughout the campaign, [President] Trump promised communities ravaged by opioid addiction that he would come to their aid. That was a lie."

7. Some Republicans also expressed concern regarding the proposal.

"We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic," said Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, according to the Times.

More articles on opioids: 
Colleges respond to rising number of overdoses, deaths amid opioid epidemic 
Buprenorphine reduces hospital stays for infants born with opioid withdrawal by nearly 50% 
Rick Scott declares Florida opioid epidemic a public health emergency

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