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Proposed Trump budget saves funding for anti-drug groups

AP

After widespread criticism, President Donald Trump made the decision not to slash funding for federal drug control as part of his proposed budget, a welcomed development for a Manatee County drug education group.

The budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which was submitted to Congress on Tuesday, will seek to make only minor cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy as opposed to the 95 percent reduction that was initially being looked at.

The decision comes after public outcry from those citing a need to combat a nationwide opioid epidemic.

Instead, the $369 million requested amounts to what is a 5 percent cut. Two grant programs that would have been eliminated entirely under the preliminary budget will instead receive only minor setbacks.

For Drug Free Manatee, a substance abuse prevention coalition that was founded in 2001, this is a major victory.

“(We are) pleased the administration listened to the voices of public health and safety experts and will continue funding vital drug programs,” Sharon Kramer, executive director of Drug Free Manatee, said Tuesday.

The organization relies on grant funding and is in the final year of a 10-year grant period. They recently applied to mentor a new local coalition called the North River Prevention Partners and were planning on applying for a new grant at the beginning of next year which, if awarded, would result in $1.25 million to fund prevention efforts in Manatee County over an additional 10-year period.

Until this week, Kramer thought these goals were all but lost due to the proposed budget cuts that called for the elimination of these grants.

“The news that the program will be saved creates optimism in this community, which has been deemed the epicenter for opioid overdoses for the last two years,” Kramer said.

The new budget will seek $92 million for the ONDCP’s drug-free communities program, which is the grant responsible for such coalitions. This figure is down from $95 million this year. Additionally, the proposal would give $246.5 million to the high-intensity drug trafficking program, down from $250 million. This program bolsters law enforcement in key drug-trafficking areas.

While the news is considered a major victory for some, not everyone is satisfied.

Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, noted that while he is relieved that the administration “backed away from a previous proposal to gut funding for vital drug programs,” any cuts are big cuts.

“Still, at a time when the opioid crisis is killing more Americans than car crashes and guns, now is not the time to make even minor cuts for programs that reduce drug use and its consequences in America,” Sabet said.

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