A two decade-old registry of substance abuse and mental health resources has been frozen and had its federal funding contract cancelled, spurring a bipartisan backlash from politicians and health professionals.
In what appears to be another head-scratching move from the Trump administration, which has been less-than-stellar in handling America's deadly opioid epidemic, the White House froze the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). While the registry was frozen in September, administrative officials confirmed to the Washington Post this week that the program's federal funding contract has been entirely terminated, too.
Since its inception in 1997, the NREPP has compiled resources and programs concerning mental health and addiction in an independently audited database, giving professionals a federally-approved list of evidence-based, scientifically-sound treatment practices. In 2015, the program began publishing evidence that not only made intervention recommendations, but also warned against sufficiently challenged studies and programs.
"NREPP is one of the most important tools we have. Nobody has a financial stake," Catherine Tucker, president of the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling, told the Washington Post. "It's an impartial, nonpartisan, trustworthy source that represents thousands and thousands of hours of work."
In its place, the Trump administration will appoint a new group to take over the NREPP's responsibilities. SAMHSA spokesman Brian Dominguez said the new entity will "institute an even more scientifically rigorous approach to better inform the identification and implementation of evidence-based programs and practices."
At least 90 new programs that have already passed the NREPP's standards have not been presented to the public in the months since the database's September publishing freeze. The lack of action has caused health professionals to second-guess the federal government's true intentions, especially in the face of America's continued opioid epidemic.
"I was shocked to learn that the NREPP contract has been terminated as an opioid epidemic continues to shake our nation," New York Congresswoman Grace Meng said in a statement. "I'm determined to find out why SAMHSA has made such a mind-boggling decision."
With the opioid epidemic representing the greatest health threat to the American public since the day Trump took office, the federal government has essentially turned a blind eye to evidence-based drug addiction programs, instead favoring police-first practices that unfairly target immigrant populations and continue America's misguided War on Drugs.
Those blinders have caused the president and his advisors to almost entirely ignore the piles of data suggesting that cannabis can be a vital resource in substance abuse recovery, particularly with opioid addiction.
After the Post asked what program will replace the NREPP, SAMHSA officials declined to comment on how it will work, when it will launch, or if existing programs with NREP-approval will be included. The same officials offered no reason for why the NREPP was suspended in the first place.
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