Two Maine organizations slated to receive funding from a controversial Biden administration grant program for groups that support a "harm reduction" approach to drug treatment are actively distributing crack pipes to addicts, the Free Beacon learned at visits to these sites.
The Church of Safe Injection, which bills itself as a "nonprofit that fights for the health, rights, and dignity of people who use drugs (PWUD)," will receive funding through a $1.2 million grant the Biden administration awarded to a coalition of Maine groups. A Free Beacon reporter last week picked up a crack pipe and meth pipe at its Lewiston, Maine, office. The organization did not provide a smoking kit, which often includes a mouthpiece, copper wool, and alcohol wipes along with the pipe.
Maine Access Points, another organization set to receive funding through the grant, provided a Free Beacon reporter a bag of a dozen crack pipes in Sanford, Maine, along with foil and a smoking kit that contained a mouthpiece, copper scrubber, lip balm, and instructions on how to smoke crack cocaine. The organization also handed out three meth pipes, a snorting kit, naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and a condom. Maine Access Points has a phone number for each of its five harm reduction facilities in the state. When a Free Beacon reporter texted to ask if the Sanford location distributed crack pipes, an employee responded, "Yes💯😊🥰."
The explanation emerging from the organizations—which cop to distributing crack pipes and receiving taxpayer funding, but insist they are not using taxpayer funds to purchase the crack pipes—paints a far messier picture than the Biden administration's haughty dismissal of initial reports on the grant program as "misinformation."
When the Free Beacon reported in February that the Biden administration was set to fund the distribution of crack pipes through a harm-reduction program intended to advance "racial equity," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra—facing blowback—said that "no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits." Likewise, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that crack pipes were "never a part of the kit" and that "we don't support federal funding, indirect or direct, for pipes."
The two Maine groups that provided the Free Beacon crack pipes did so separately from their smoking kits. This distinguished the groups from the five harm reduction locations along the East Coast that provided the Free Beacon with crack pipes within their smoking kits.
A spokeswoman for the Church of Safe Injection, Zoe Brokos, told the Free Beacon that the organization has yet to receive the federal funds it was awarded, and plans to use them to purchase "wound care kit supplies such as alcohol pads, gauze pads, and bandages." Brokos added that her organization will continue to distribute crack pipes and meth pipes but will not use federal grants to fund them.
Maine Access Points did not respond to a request for comment.
Church of Safe Injection and Maine Access Points—in collaboration with MaineHealth, the state's largest health system, and Amistad, a peer support group for drug addicts—are using the taxpayer-funded grants to facilitate the distribution of drug paraphernalia in each of Maine's 16 counties, with a focus on LGBT and homeless drug users, according to HHS grant information. The grant is set to be renewed annually through 2023.
Although Church of Safe Injection and Maine Access Points help oversee the HHS grant award funds, the department omitted the two harm reduction groups from the grant recipient announcement, listing only MaineHealth. A local CBS affiliate reported in June that both harm reduction groups are grant recipients, and the groups celebrated the award funding in separate Facebook posts. The government's omission raises questions as to why the groups were left off the Biden administration's list of grant recipients.
An HHS spokesman told the Free Beacon that the federal funds have yet to be used by either harm reduction organization.
"As we have said, harm reduction grant dollars cannot be used to purchase pipes. Federal law prohibits the sale or offer of drug paraphernalia," the spokesman said. "The harm reduction grant dollars, while awarded, have not yet been withdrawn by the organizations in question."
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
"So bittersweet to share the news that we received this grant in collaboration with Maine Access Points, Amistad, and MaineHealth," the Church of Safe Injection posted on Facebook in May with a link to the HHS grant announcement. "Bittersweet because so few harm reductionists were chosen throughout the country even though we know that the services provided by syringe service programs and naloxone distribution orgs save lives and make a HUGE difference."
MaineHealth did not respond to a request for comment.
The Church of Safe Injection launched in 2018 and operated without legal approval from the state before it was certified through Maine's syringe exchange program in February. The group hosts a "trans harm reduction group" twice a month for "trans and non-gender conforming people who use drugs." Its founder, Jesse Harvey, died of an overdose in 2020. Kari Morissette, who took over as executive director of the group after the death of Harvey, died in May.
Despite the Biden administration's assurances that taxpayer funds would not underwrite the distribution of crack pipes, Congress passed bipartisan bills in June and July that bar the administration from funding it.
Update 10:42 a.m.: This piece has been updated with comment from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Published under: Biden Administration , Drugs , Feature