Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is using her opposition to the War on Drugs as a way to support treatment for drug addiction.
An amendment, proposed by Ocasio-Cortez for an appropriations bill and approved via voice vote on Thursday, will move $5 million from DEA funding for allocation to opioid addiction treatment programs.
Specifically, the funds will be used for the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program, which allows drug addiction to be treated as a public health issue.
"The opioid crisis has touched every part of this country, including the Bronx," Dan Riffle, senior counsel and policy advisor for the congresswoman, said in a statement to Yahoo Finance. "This amendment is a small first step, but she’s also focused on a racial justice approach to legalizing marijuana, single payer healthcare via Medicare for All, and reducing the outsized influence of the pharmaceutical lobby."
Initially, AOC aimed to move $30 million from the DEA but eventually decreased her request. The official committee report noted that despite moving $5 million out of the DEA budget, “this still leaves the DEA with the $84.9 million more than FY19 and $72.7 million more than the president’s request.”
‘If the South Bronx [were] its own state ...’
According to the New York Times, AOC’s hometown Bronx passed Staten Island as the borough with the most fatal drug overdoses in 2017. It was particularly bad in the South Bronx, where the overdose rate per capita was higher than everywhere else in the U.S. except for West Virginia. Most of it came from the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl.
“If the South Bronx [were] its own state, it would have the second-highest [opioid overdose] rate in the country…” Dr. Denise Paone, director of research and surveillance for the New York Department of Health, told AM New York last year.
Riffle also noted that he worked with the congresswoman to propose the amendment.
“I worked in drug policy reform before coming to the hill, and put this amendment idea together with a friend from the Drug Policy Alliance,” Riffle said. “She was pitched on it and eagerly ran with it.”
During the hearing for the amendment, AOC said: “I offer this amendment because ending the War on Drugs has to mean changing our priorities in order to keep all communities safe and healthy. The best way we do that is by offering people the help and support they need before arrest and criminalization should be considered in the first place.”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.