HOUSTON — On Tuesday, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced millions in funding for Houston to fight against the overdose epidemic and drug trafficking.
Dr. Rahul Gupta said about $275 million in funding will be provided for the 33 regional high-intensity drug trafficking area programs across the country. The Houston High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program will receive about $12 million.
What are they doing?
"They are actually working to disrupt and dismantle the drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and reduce the supply of illicit drugs in cities like right here in Houston," Gupta said.
Gupta said the funding will provide resources that are critical to the ongoing work of the people on the frontlines of stopping the overdose epidemic. It will support their work and will build on the Biden administration's national drug control strategy that was announced last week.
The country is facing a "crisis in overdose deaths," according to Gupta. He said there were about 107,000 overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in November of 2021. He said that equates to one American dying from overdosing every 5 minutes.
Gupta said the strategy focuses on two big drivers of the epidemic:
- Untreated addiction
- Drug trafficking
"This is about going after the bad guys and making sure that we are saving lives," Gupta said.
Watch the full news conference in the video below:
The program will renew its focus on "disrupting transnational criminal organizations and their financial networks and supply chains."
The budget also provides more money for border security. About $300 million will be provided for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and about $300 more for the Drug Enforcement Agency.
"The bottom line is this: We have to hit drug traffickers where it hurts them the most, and it's their wallets," Gupta said.
They want to make it more costly for drug traffickers in "every way possible."
The program also aims to make it easier to find treatment.
"Today in America, if it's easier to get illicit drugs than it is to get treatment, we'll never be able to bend the curve on overdoses," Gupta said.
He said it's "unacceptable" that only one out of every 10 people who have substance abuse disorders have access to treatment.
"If we invest in prevention when people are young, they are much less likely to develop a substance use disorder later in life," Gupta said.