WEATHER WATCH
Federal government to pay for crack pipes, meth pipes as part of harm reduction strategy
A glass pipe on the ground in Vancouver, Wash. (SBG)

In the name of harm reduction, the substance abuse arm of the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) will begin providing funds to help distribute “safe smoking kits” for the consumption of various illicit drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) has allocated roughly $30 million for a Harm Reduction Program Grant, which includes funding for syringe exchange programs, the opioid reversal drug naloxone, test kits to detect fentanyl and “safe smoking kits/supplies,” among other more traditional measures, like HIV testing and safer sex resources.

Harm reduction efforts, like testing for infectious diseases, needle exchanges and naloxone distribution programs, are nothing new, but providing federal taxpayer funds for paraphernalia used to smoke drugs is.

An HHS spokesperson reportedly confirmed to The Washington Free Beacon these “safe smoking kits” will provide pipes for the consumption of “any illicit substance” to reduce the risk of infection, which can potentially occur through cuts and sores.

Seattle previously distributed meth pipes to residents in 2015, according to Reuters, but it’s reportedly hard to tell the benefit such a program can have. 

“It is plausible the intervention could be effective,” said Matthew Golden, a Seattle and King County disease control official and a University of Washington medical professor, when the program was launched. “It’s simply an unstudied idea.”

One nonprofit said it had conducted research which determined meth users would be less likely to inject the drug if given access to pipes, but there is little evidence to back up such a claim, Reuters reported.

San Francisco has handed out crack pipes as well, according to local reporting, where allegedly an estimated 25,000 people actively inject drugs.

The SAMHSA grant’s $30 million will be spread across three years, and the money will be prioritized for “underserved communities that are greatly impacted by substance use disorder (SUD).”

Other measures funded by the grant include harm reduction vending machines – including the contents to stock them, infectious disease test kits and medicines, vaccination services and wound care supplies.

SAMHSA did not respond to The National Desk's (TND) inquiry on whether the “safe smoking kits” mentioned will also be available at harm reduction vending machines across the country. However, HHS did challenge media reports about the new grant.

“These comments are misleading and misinformed,” an HHS spokesperson told TND in a statement. “Too many Americans have lost their lives to drug overdose. Evidence-based community harm reduction services such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and syringe services programs help people stay alive and are proven strategies for addressing this tragic epidemic.” 

“The Harm Reduction Grant Program offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is designed to put these services within reach for Americans who are struggling with substance use so they can stay healthy and safe, avoid overdose death, and find pathways into evidence-based treatments,” the statement concluded. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also rebuked media reports, saying crack pipes "were never a part of the [safe smoking] kit."

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