The Biden administration adamantly denied that its multi-million dollar harm reduction program would help dole out crack pipes to addicts, but smoking kits distributed all over the east coast include such paraphernalia.
The Washington Free Beacon visited five harm reduction organizations in New York City, Boston, Richmond, Va., Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and every single one included crack pipes in their safe smoking kits.
All of the centers were non-profit health organizations and governmental agencies, exactly the types of groups eligible to apply for funding under the Biden administration’s $30 million grant program.
While the Biden administration has not announced whether any of these groups will receive federal funding, many safe smoking kits distributed by such groups include crack pipes, and it remains to be seen if the Biden administration will filter out groups that do.
Contents of safe smoking kits vary from one organization to another, and not all may contain crack pipes. All of the five organizations the Free Beacon visited included not only crack pipes in their kits but also utensils to use heroine, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, without requiring any sort of rehabilitation along with the free drug kits.
None of these five specific groups responded to requests for comment about whether they applied for the federal grant. The Biden administration is set to announce grant recipients on May 15.
The Washington Free Beacon visited five harm reduction organizations in New York City , Boston, Richmond, Va., Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and every single one included crack pipes in their safe smoking kits
‘They were never a part of the kit,’ said press secretary Jen Psaki of crack pipes. ‘It was inaccurate reporting’
This safe smoking kit is doled out by Charm City Care Connection in Baltimore, Md.
The kits also often include sanitary items for addicts to utilize when using to mitigate the spread of disease.
A survey by the Free Beacon of two dozen other harm reduction organizations found that not all distribute safe smoking kits, but those that do typically include crack pipes. The few that don’t include them said they are willing to but don’t have the resources to do so.
The kits drew bitter condemnation from Republicans after a Free Beacon report in February signaled that the $30 million program would go towards safe smoking kits that included crack pipes.
The White House repeatedly denied that any funding under the program would go towards crack pipes.
‘They were never a part of the kit,’ said press secretary Jen Psaki of crack pipes. ‘It was inaccurate reporting.’
‘We’ve been very clear that we are not providing funding for crack pipes,’ Psaki added in a later press briefing, calling the matter ‘an issue that is not an issue.’
The affair began when a Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson reportedly told the Washington Free Beacon that included in these kits these kits could be pipes for users to smoke substances like crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, or ‘any illicit substance.’
Days later HHS put out a statement contradicting its previously reported remarks. ‘No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits. The goal of harm reduction is to save lives.’
This safe smoking kit is doled out by The Spahr Center in Corte Madera, Calif., and includes a crack pipe
The statement said that HHS will instead prioritize the ‘use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes.’
Asked what the safe smoking kits might contain Psaki said at the time: ‘alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.’
‘I would note that what we’re really talking about here is steps that we’re taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic,’ Psaki added.
HHS could not be reached for comment on a comprehensive list of allowable items, but such kits also typically include a rubber mouthpiece to prevent cuts and burns, brass screens to filter contaminants and disinfectant wipes, according to Harm Reduction International.
And as Republicans mounted for a fight putting forth bills to ban the distribution of crack pipes, HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra said in a statement that no federal funding ‘will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.’
Also funded under the grant are harm reduction vending machines, including stock for the machines, medication to reverse a drug overdose, medication lock boxes, infectious disease testing kits, safe sex kits, medication and needle disposal kits, vaccination services and wound care supplies.
The $30 million Harm Reduction Program grant is funded through the 2021 American Rescue Plan, and therefore is ‘not subject to the same syringe funding restrictions as other federal grants,’ HHS says.
The grant program lasts three years and includes 25 awards of up to $400,000.
It is against the law to sell or distribute drug paraphernalia – including such pipes – unless authorized by state, local or federal law.
After the administration’s adamant denial that it would fund the pipes, the Drug Policy Alliance said the decision to ‘remove pipes from safe smoking equipment is deeply disappointing.’
‘This is a missed opportunity to be preventative of more deaths due to overdose,’ the group wrote on Twitter. ‘Giving clean drug-using equipment such as a pipe & syringe reduces transmission of disease including Hep. C & HIV.’
‘Harm reduction works to meet people where they are at, and keep people free of diseases and alive so they have a chance of recovery and healing,’ the group added.