The Biden Administration is refuting claims made by a right-wing media outlet that crack pipes will be included in “safe smoking kits” handed out to underserved communities as part of a $30 million public health harm reduction grant package.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki denied the claim, which was first reported on by the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday, calling it “inaccurate reporting.” On Monday, the outlet stated that the information was confirmed by a Health and Human Services spokesperson.
“Included in the grant, which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, are funds for ‘smoking kits/supplies,’” the article said. “A spokesman for the agency told the Washington Free Beacon that these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and ‘any illicit substance.’”
But an HHS spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the agency never said the kits would provide pipes. The spokesperson provided the email chain with the reporter, which matches the agency’s account.
From The Daily Beast:
“The spokesperson added that the reporter also “omitted the information shared with him about the grantees needing to comply with federal, state, and local laws—the very language that would prohibit crack pipes.””
HHS has previously made a statement on the matter, shooting down the information contained in the Free Beacon article. Instead, it said the program is “designed to help Americans who are struggling with substance use stay healthy and safe, prevent overdose death, and find pathways into evidence-based treatments.”
“[N]o 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,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “The Administration is focused on a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of drugs and curb addiction, including prioritizing the use of proven harm reduction strategies like providing naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes, as well as taking decisive actions to go after violent criminals who are trafficking illicit drugs like fentanyl across our borders and into our communities.”
According to Psaki, the kits will contain “alcohol swabs, lip balm, and other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
The program is intended to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. The grant money aims to aid in harm reduction practices in underserved communities, such as members of the LTBTQ+ community and African Americans, to comply with an executive order regarding racial equality.