White House rejects Fox News question about crack pipes in safe-to-smoke kits: ‘A bit of a conspiracy theory’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki rebuffed a question from Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News on Thursday after the reporter asked about a federal program that has long been in the right-wing crosshairs to help drug addicts avoid overdose deaths.

Ms. Psaki was asked by the cable network correspondent, one day before her last press conference at the White House podium, if federal dollars had been used to fund harm reduction kits distributed by some agencies without for-profit containing crack pipes and other paraphernalia intended to supply drugs. users with sterile tools for drug use.

“You said in February that no money from a $30 million harm reduction program would fund the distribution of crack pipes in safe-to-smoke kits. The Washington Free Beacon they reported going to harm reduction facilities in five cities and all of those facilities had crack pipes in their kits,” said Ms. Heinrich.

“HHS does not say which programs applied for funding and the list of recipients is not yet available. So I wonder if the White House can say if any taxpayer money paid for these claims,” he continued.

Ms. Psaki strongly denied that federal money was used for such programs.

“No federal funding has been earmarked,” he declared.

“And is there any oversight to ensure that when that money comes out of the program, these organizations won’t be using federal dollars for crack pipes?” Mrs. Heinrich continued.

“This policy does not allow crack pipes to be included. I would just like to point out that this is a bit of a conspiracy theory that has been spread around. It’s not exact. There are major drug treatment programs for people who have been suffering from what we have seen as an epidemic across the country. And the money is not used for crack pipes,” Ms. Psaki reiterated.

The Fox reporter’s comment incorrectly summarized the free beacons reports Actually, the free beacons May 12 report on the issue directly stated: “None of the organizations [visited by the Free Beacon’s reporters] answered questions about whether they applied for government grants. It is unclear which organizations will receive those grants.”

The free beacons The report does not at any point definitively establish that its reporters have evidence that the organizations it visited received funding under the Biden administration, stating only that they were “the types of groups eligible to receive funding, beginning this month, from the $ 30 million from the Biden administration. financial aid program.

It’s unclear if any organizations have actually received grants under the program in question, which only began accepting applications earlier this year. Documents released by Health and Human Services (HHS) indicate that grant money can be used for so-called “safe smoking kits,” but HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has specified that items used to ingest substances, including pipes or other paraphernalia, would not be eligible for funding.

“No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement from recipients to put pipes into safe smoking kits,” the secretary said. USA Today in February.

Safe smoking kits and other harm reduction strategies are seen by many drug treatment organizations as critical to an effective response to the opioid epidemic and other drug use problems across the country.

The provision of such items, even at some sites that do not participate in this latest grant program, allows addicts to use drugs relatively safely at “safe injection sites” where overdoses can be responded to quickly and users have access to sterile materials. Many also provide resources for on-site addiction treatment centers, like one that opened in New York City late last year.

Provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control in November estimated that 100,306 drug overdose deaths occurred between April 2020 and April 2021, which, if corroborated with the final figures, would indicate an increase of more than one quarter compared to the previous year.

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