White House drug policy office facing massive cuts, draft memo says

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Story highlights

  • A draft memo says the office will receive a near 94% cut in 2018
  • Trump pledged to fight opioid abuse

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump pledged throughout the 2016 campaign to fight opioid abuse, but a draft memo on his 2018 budget virtually eliminates an office within the White House aimed at doing just that.

The draft memo provided to CNN by a source details how the Office of National Drug Control Policy will receive a near 94% cut in 2018, from a $380 million budget to $24 million.
"The 2018 Budget reduces resources for the Office of National Drug Control Policy in order to reflect a small, more streamlined organization that can more effectively address drug control issues," the memo reads, later arguing that the budget request will "shift" the office's focus from "duplicative and burdensome administrative tasks" and change the office into more a coordinating body.
The draft memo says the budget request will also include the elimination of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program and the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, arguing they are "duplicative of other efforts across the federal government and supplant state and local responsibilities."
The White House declined to get into the specifics of the budget request or detail whether the function of the office will be moved to another office within the federal government.
"The budget process is a complex one with many moving parts. It would be premature for us to comment -- or anyone to report -- on any aspect of this ever-changing, internal discussion before the publication of the document," a White House official said. "The President and his Cabinet are working collaboratively to create a leaner, more efficient government that does more with less of tax payers' hard-earned dollars."
Democrats were not as charitable, arguing that the budget proposal was a "cruel betrayal by Trump."
"Throughout the campaign, Trump promised communities ravaged by opioid addiction that he would come to their aid," said Daniel Wessel, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. "That was a lie."
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Fighting addiction

Opioid overdoses have reached epidemic levels, according to the Center for Disease Control.
A study from the agency found that 25% of all drug overdose deaths were related to heroin in 2015. That number was just 6% in 1999.
Under Trump, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, has remained a largely unused mystery. The website for the group has remained blank since Trump's inauguration.
"Check back soon for more information," it reads.
Fighting opioid addiction was a key Trump promise throughout the 2016 campaign.
"We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need," Trump said weeks before Election Day in 2016. "I would dramatically expand access to treatment slots."
Trump tried to make good on that promise earlier this year when he launched a New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-led task force on the opioid crisis and drug treatment at a White House listening session.
"We want to help those who have become so badly addicted," Trump said during the listening session that included people who lost family to opioid overdoses. "This is a total epidemic and I think it is probably un-talked about compared to the severity we are witnessing."
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Medicaid cuts

But those non-profits and experts looking to fight the opioid epidemic have felt let down by Trump, particularly because of concerns that his health care reform plan could eventually hurt addicted Americans who need help.
The Trump-backed Republican health care plan would end the Obamacare requirement that addiction services and mental health treatment be covered under Medicaid in the 31 states that expanded the health care program, leaving it to the states to decide whether to cover the addiction services.
"If you cut off even the essential funding for people to get that treatment, they simply won't get it," said Dr. David C. Lewis, the founder of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. "That is the problem."
Trump's top aides and budget director have said a main goal of the President's budget plan was to end duplicative offices, so it remains unclear whether the functions of the Office of National Drug Control Policy will be rolled into another branch of the federal government.