Public health advocates are urging President Donald Trump not to cut funding to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in order to boost the military budget.
Trump's proposed federal budget is expected to significantly decrease funds to a number of domestic programs, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Internal Revenue Service, to increase military spending by $54 billion, reports The Fix. That leaves the ONDCP, which is responsible for federal anti-drug programs, in danger of disappearing, leaving advocates scrambling to save it.
More than 70 organizations, including the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Major County Sheriffs of America, signed a letter sent to the Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney opposing any such budget cuts and urging the White House to continue working toward alleviating the opioid crisis.
"In the middle of the biggest opioid epidemic and with an increase in overdose deaths, I cannot imagine they would be looking for less oversight," said Jessica Nickel, executive director for the Addiction Policy Forum, one of the organizations that signed the letter, according to The Fix.
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The ONDCP has not commented on any upcoming budget cuts, although it has been removed from the White House's official website.
"We are still working hard on behalf of the American people to address drug use and its consequences," wrote the department's acting director, Kemp Chester, in a Feb. 21 email. "This includes working with President Trump's team to develop his drug policy framework for our Nation going forward."
The White House has not yet officially clarified their intentions regarding the office, although it is reportedly assembling a specialized task force, which could be led by Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, to address the nationwide drug epidemic. In the meantime, the executive branch is working to develop a series of sweeping budget cuts designed to pass with congressional approval.
"The budget process is a complex one with many moving parts," a White House spokesperson said in a statement, according to CBS News. "It would be premature for us to comment -- or anyone to report -- on any aspect of this ever-changing, internal discussion before the publication of the document. The President and his cabinet are working collaboratively to create a leaner, more efficient government that does more with less of tax payers' hard-earned dollars."
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According to The New York Times, Trump's proposed budget cuts affect nearly every federal program while exempting Medicare, Social Security, veterans' benefits and law enforcement efforts.