Probe finds crack pipes in Biden admin’s safe smoking kits, raising grant questions

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Probe finds crack pipes in Biden admin's safe smoking kits, raising grant questions

Crack pipes are being given out to addicts in some so-called safe drug-use sites in major cities along the East Coast – organizations that could qualify for funding from the Biden administration, according to a new report.

The Washington Free Beacon found that five sites in Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Richmond, Va. included the hard drug pipes in so-called “safe smoking kits” – though it remains unclear if any have applied for or will receive funds from the administration’s $30 million Harm Reduction Program Grant that will be doled out later this month.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the grant program in February, saying it would pay for “required harm reduction activities that the money must be used for including the purchase of “equipment and supplies to enhance harm reduction efforts, such as … Safe smoking kits/supplies.”

At the time, the Free Beacon cited a HHS spokesperson as saying the safe smoking kits and supplies would include crack pipes – however the Department quickly called the report “inaccurate.”

Karen Bigg, of Chicago Recovery Alliance, holds safe smoking kits for drug use on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Chicago.
The Washington Free Beacon reported cities providing alleged crack pipes at safe drug-sites.
Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

“The Harm Reduction Grant … is a grant program designed to help Americans who are struggling with substance use stay healthy and safe, prevent overdose death, and find pathways into evidence-based treatments. Like all programs that use federal funding, these grants must adhere to relevant federal, state and local laws or regulations,” the initial spokesperson had told the outlet, not mentioning pipes in the response.

“SAMHSA does not specify the kits’ elements – only the parameters.”

The White House quickly defended the program, with press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters that such pipes “were never a part of the kit.”

August 14, 2019: Domingas DaRosa shows the discarded needles and Narcan he picks up as he cleans up needles in the Southampton Street and Melnea Cass Blvd area in Boston, Massachusetts.(
The Department of Health and Human Services has stated their grant can be used to purchase “Safe smoking kits/supplies.”
Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

“It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear,” she said, adding that the kits could include lip balm, alcohol swabs or other materials meant to help prevent the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

HHS at the time also directly denied any federal funding “will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits.”

Allie Hunter, co-founder and president of Addiction Response Resources, gives a participant ten dollars in one dollar coins after they turned in 50 needles to the Community Syringe Redemption Program in Nubian Square, Roxbury, MA on September 14, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied the White House is spending federal funds on crack pipes.
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In response to the Free Beacon’s Thursday report, Psaki reiterated “no federal funding” had gone to purchase the pipes obtained by the outlet.

“This policy does not allow for crack pipes to be included,” she added. “I would just note that this is a bit of a conspiracy theory that’s been spread out there. It’s not accurate. There’s important drug treatment programs for people who have been suffering from what we’ve seen as an epidemic across the country, and money is not used for crack pipes.”

In Baltimore, a safe smoking kit distributed at the nonprofit organization Charm City Care Connection includes glass pipes, copper mesh and instructions on how to use the pipe. The organization has received state funding in the past, including $200,000 in government grants in 2019, according to the Free Beacon report.

A man fixes a watch as he holds a pipe to smoke basuco, a highly addictive drug consisting of low-grade cocaine mixed with coca paste and other substances, in downtown Medellin, Colombia, on February 25, 2022.
The Department of Health and Human Services claims it does not decide whether states can issue crack pipes.
JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

A few hours north in Boston, the Access, Harm Reduction, Overdose Prevention and Education facility offered a bin of pipes for users to take from. The facility is reportedly run by the Boston Public Health Commission.

The Alliance’s Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center in New York also provides pipes – for smoking crack cocaine as well as meth – and smoking literature, the Free Beacon found. The center – which reportedly has received $20 million in funding from HHS since 2004 – also distributed cooper mesh.

In Washington DC, the Honoring Individual Power and Strength harm reduction center also provides various pipes and has a history of receiving $3.1 million in funding from SAMHSA sine 2018.

The fifth location the outlet visited was the River City Harm Redux organization in Richmond. The location provided a crack cocaine smoking kit, as well as a meth pipe and two “snorting kits” for users to snort drugs with.

It is unclear whether any of these organizations are among the roughly 25 recipients of the SAMHSA grants.

The Biden administration is expected to formally announce the recipients – which are limited to states; local, tribal, and territorial governments; tribal organizations; nonprofit community-based organizations; and primary and behavioral health organizations – later this month.

Recipients will receive up to a grand total of $9,750,00 per year or $29,250,000 over three years – the length of the program.

HHS declined to provide a list of the organizations that have applied for the funding to the Free Beacon due to “confidentiality,” the outlet reported.

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.

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