Trump mulling significant cuts to White House drug office, memo warns

The Trump administration is considering making significant cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCDP) according to a preliminary budget document and an email message that its acting director has circulated to agency staff.

The proposed $364 million cut would leave a budget of just $24 million for the office and would eliminate its two major grant programs. The ONDCP is the lead White House office shaping policy on the nation's opioid crisis, among other responsibilities.

The eliminations involve the high-intensity drug-trafficking area program, which just received — under a catchall government-wide spending bill signed by President Trump on Friday — $254 million for grants to help states and localities to fight drug trafficking, and the $100 million drug-free communities program, which helps local organizations battle drugs in their communities. The programs have widespread bipartisan support among lawmakers.

"We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic," Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said.

The proposal insists that the Trump budget would result in a “smaller, more streamlined organization that can more effectively address drug control issues.” The proposal could also cut staffing for the office by 33 full-time workers, according to the leaked email by acting drug office director Rich Baum. Such cuts which could eliminate almost half of the staff for the office.

The document is a preliminary White House proposal for the drug czar's office that is subject to change before being released later this month.

"I have been encouraged by the Administration's commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic, and the President's personal engagement on the issue," Baum said. "These drastic proposed cuts are frankly heartbreaking and, if carried out, would cause us to lose many good people who contribute greatly to ONDCP's mission and core activities."

Trump had vowed to combat the nation’s growing opioid epidemic and in March commissioned a new addiction task force to help combat the crisis, tapping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead the fight. Trump's new addiction commission is to work with local officials, law enforcement, medical professionals and addicts to improve treatment options, prevent people from getting hooked in the first place and stop the flow of drugs across the border.

Trump is set to release his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 later this month, Bloomberg reported. Congress will get the final say on whether to accept his proposal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.