Press Briefing by Director of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Lee Brown
The Briefing Room
2:24 P.M. EST
DR. BROWN: Good afternoon. This morning I was with the President and the Vice President over in Maryland to announce the administration's 1994 national drug control strategy. As you know, this is the administration's first fully-developed strategy, and it deals on the interim strategy we released last September through my office, the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
This strategy includes the largest federal drug control budget ever, a record $13.2 billion -- a reflection not only on the high priority the President places on addressing the drug problem, but also, the grave threat drugs pose to our community, to our economy and, most important, to our children.
Our new strategy departs from previous strategies in several important respects. The strategy places a new emphasis on treating chronic hard-core drug users who consume the bulk of drugs sold on the streets and fuel much of our violent crime. The research tells us that treatment works and that a dollar spent on drug treatment is repaid seven-fold in the form of reduced public spending and increased productivity. And so we're seeking $355 million in new spending for treatment of chronic hard-core drug users.
The strategy places a new emphasis on reducing the demand for drugs, particularly among young people. And we're seeking a $191-million increase in funding for safe and drug-free school programs.
The strategy proposes to make our community safer by adding new police to walk the beat, by expanding community policing and by promoting drug courts and boot camps. And the strategy rejects the misguided notion of legalization of illegal drugs, and calls on every family to take new responsibility for their children; calls on our communities to stand up for common decency and against drugs and violence.
You have in your package something like this which gives you some more detailed information, charts, et cetera, but I'll be pleased to take your questions at this time.
Q: Dr. Brown, could you respond to William Bennett's comments to the effect that this is misguided, that you're taking money from interdiction and putting it into treatment, and that that simply doesn't work?
DR. BROWN: I would suspect Mr. Bennett has not seen our strategy because it was released today. We're not taking money from interdiction. Our belief is that supply and demand are equally important and, therefore, they should not be competing with each other. Indeed, the monies that we are proposing for our treatment and prevent efforts are new money.
The President did direct, however, a change in our interdiction. We do interdiction on our borders, keeping drugs from coming across our borders. We'll continue to do that. We're doing interdiction in what we call the transit zones, where the drugs are coming across the water. That's where the President asked us to make a shift because the drug trafficking organizations, they have made a shift. And, therefore, it's important for us to respond to the shift that they've made. The shift calls for a controlled shift to go into the source countries and place a greater emphasis there in helping them deal with the problem at the source countries -- like going to the sources. It's easier to stop it there. It's easier for us on our borders if we can dry it up there.
So we're not competing between supply and demand. Our request is for new funds for treatment and prevention.
Q: But you're going to be doing less in terms of the Coast Guard, less in terms of that interdiction effort, is that correct?
DR. BROWN: The efforts will be appropriate for the threat that exists there at this point in time. And the reason we call it a controlled shift is because we anticipate that the drug trafficking organizations will also change and, therefore, we have to have the resources to respond if they do change.
Q: Director Brown, can you be more specific on what the impact will be on the transit zones like South Florida? And does it not at least raise the risk that drug traffickers will return -- bring their routes back around through those areas?
DR. BROWN: It does raise the risk, and that's the reason we call it a controlled shift. We will not move all of our assets from the transit zone. But right now, the drug trafficking organizations have changed their strategy. They're using not so much just the fly-overs like we've had before, but they're using more now, the commercial flights into the country and more maritime. So we're going to change in response to their changes in strategy.
What we're doing right now we see as a better and smarter way of addressing the problem, where we're going to the source countries. And we want to see as rapidly as possible the source countries and transit countries take on the drug trafficking, narcotic trafficking problems themselves. We've seen that happen in Mexico. So our efforts will be to support them in more than one way -- their interdiction efforts in the source countries and transit countries as well as carrying forth some of our other goals such as democracy, institution building and human rights concerns. So drugs will be an equal partner with those concerns. But we will maintain our flexibility. If something -- if we see a strategy changes, we'll be prepared to change.
Q: Dr. Brown, you're including money for community cops here, and that's one of the emphases in the administration's program. Yet in New York City, the Mayor has raised questions about how well the community cops program has worked there. Do you think there is something to his criticism and should we take a second, more skeptical look at the community cops idea?
DR. BROWN: I think the community policing is a very solid and sound way of using police resources. The Mayor's police commissioner is a strong advocate of community policing, and has been for years and years and he probably will continue to be.
We have to understand that we're talking about a major transformation of an institution. Community policing represents the only change we've ever seen in policing in America. If we go back to when we first started policing, because of corruption and political
interference there was a reform era that brought us to where we are today. That's the only change we've had so far. Now we see a quiet revolution in policing, where we're going to community policing as a second major change.
It worked for me in Houston. It worked for me when I was a police commissioner in New York City. In fact, after one year in New York City, crime went down in every major category. That had not happened in a 36-year history of that department. Community policing, I would predict, will become the policing style of policing in America, if not the free world.
Q: Dr. Brown, there was some talk about the new strategy helping 140,000 more people than before. Do you have any idea what percentage that is of the total drug population and what percentage that is of the people in the past years that have been treated or helped to be treated in strategies?
DR. BROWN: We estimate that the hard-core drug population is about 2.7 million people, about 600,000 of those would be heroin, and the rest would be the crack cocaine, cocaine-dependent people. There is a gap right now of about 1.1 million people that could be benefitted from treatment. The 140,000 include what we have in our budget, $355 million for treatment of the hard-core, plus funds in the crime control bill. As the President has pointed out, we have to tie these two together, the crime strategy as well as the crime control bill. That would close the gap by about 9 percent from those who need treatment and not receiving it right now.
Q: So this hasn't happened yet. This is money that you need to get from the crime bill --
DR. BROWN: We have $350-million increase in the President's proposal to the Congress. The rest would have to come when the crime bill is passed by the Congress.
Q: And you're saying that you think you'll be reaching 140,000 out the 1.1 million that you're targeting, or should it be out of the 2.7 million?
DR. BROWN: Out of the 1.1 million gap, people who could benefit from drug treatment that are not receiving it right now. We might also add that the President's health care reform is extremely important. When passed by Congress, that would ensure that in addition to everyone having guaranteed health care, everyone would have also treatment for substance abuse. And that becomes extremely important. It will also go a long way toward closing the gap.
Q: Just to clarify that number, of the 2.7 million hard-core users, does that mean that 1.6 million now have access to treatment and the 1.1 million don't and you're trying to reach that 1.1 million; or the 1.7 million are just -- they're untreatable?
DR. BROWN: It's not that they're untreatable. The resources are not there to treat them. So if we look at those who could benefit from treatment, we have a gap of 1.1 million. The 140,000 --
Q: Who are the 1.7 million?
Q: Where's the gap coming -- the gap from what? I don't understand -- we don't understand what the gap is. There's the gap of 1.1 million --
DR. BROWN: There are two steps. Let me ask Mr. Carnavale explain the two sets of data from health and human services.
MR. CARNAVALE: We have two sets of data. One, we have our own estimates of 2.7 million hard-core users. These are cocaine and heroin users in the population. HHS has its own estimates in terms of the number of people who could benefit from treatment. That's their term. The 2.7 million that we have represents the total hard-core user population. Now, within that 2.7 million, we don't know how many of those people may currently be in treatment. HHS has no idea how many total hard-core users there are, but they have a sense of how many they can treat.
So between the two of us, we have independent methods, but we both accept the fact that we have an enormous treatment gap. We accept their estimate for purposes of the strategy -- that we have a gap of 1.1 million people who need to get into treatment. And the current capacity of the system is about 1.4 million. And they're estimating about 2.6 million, I believe, for the number of people who should get into treatment.
Q: Wait a second --
MR. CARNAVALE: Let me go back up on my notes here. (Laughter.)
DR. BROWN: There are two different data sets --
MR. CARNAVALE: The 2.7 million represents our estimate of hard-core users, cocaine and heroin.
Q: And you don't know how many of those are in treatment or not.
MR. CARNAVALE: We don't know at this point. We're trying to come up with a population estimate. No survey that currently exists comes up with a national estimate of hard-core use.
Q: Whose department's estimate is that?
MR. CARNAVALE: That is our own estimate. We worked with HHS -- at least their data sets -- to compile it.
Q: Which department are you with?
DR. BROWN: My office.
MR. CARNAVALE: Now, HHS has its own estimate of the number of people who could benefit from treatment. They currently estimate -- I'm looking to my helper here -- 2.5 million people who could benefit from treatment. Now, that estimate is based on a different methodology where they apply clinical criteria to the household survey on drug abuse and come up with people who have some kind of drug-related problem.
Now, their estimates when they go through this include a lot of marijuana users. And we're still working with them to find out how to deal with that population, because most treatment providers tell us they don't actually get a lot of marijuana users in their treatment programs.
So our hard-core user number represents our best guess of the total universe of the cocaine and heroin users. Their numbers represent the number of people who should get into the treatment system.
Q: But why are you targeting only 1.1 million? That's what's unclear.
MR. CARNAVALE: That is the current estimate of the gap. If we accept their method, we'd have an estimate of the treatment
capacity and the number of people who could benefit from treatment. There's a gap of 1.1 million.
Q: What do you mean by people who could benefit?
MR. CARNAVALE: People who exhibit -- they define hardcore use based on frequency of use, which is a tendency to use drugs at least weekly and who have exhibited some kind of behavior or psychological problems associated with that drug use. So that's their definition applied against their household survey.
The problem with that survey, again, is that it tends not to count hard-core use. It tends to miss a lot of hard-core users because they're not part of the household.
DR. BROWN: So what it all boils down to if we take their information, they feel it's a 1.1 million gap between those who could benefit from treatment and those who are receiving it.
Q: William Bennett also says studies show that only one out of four hard-core users who go into treatment actually come out rehabilitated and, therefore, it makes little sense to focus so much of your energies on the hard-core user. Can you address that?
DR. BROWN: We see drug addiction as a chronic relapsing disease. Just as any other ailment receives treatment and may not be successful initially, the same thing is true with drug treatment. We know -- I know personally that treatment does work. I've had the chance to visit treatment facilities throughout this country. I've had a chance to talk to people who have been drug addicts, who have gone through treatment programs and are now productive citizens. In fact, at the event we had today, we had a person who had been in a facility for treatment who's now out leading a productive life.
Our position is certainly treatment does work, but it's not something that we just see as a one event in the lifetime of that person. There also -- we have to also tie into treatment all the other aspects of that person's existence. It may be job training, other aspects of aftercare, it may be problems in terms of transmittal diseases that the person may have. So we look at the totality of the person and provide for those problems. But we believe very strongly, based on our research and our knowledge, that indeed treatment does work.
Q: So your strategy addresses those other problem?
DR. BROWN: That is correct. Our strategy looks at it in its totality.
Q: Could you clarify the budget numbers again? I think you said that the new request in the budget is $350 million additionally for treatment. The remainder of the treatment funds are in the crime bill. Does that mean the remainder of the treatment funds are in the prison treatment system?
DR. BROWN: There's $355 million that we're requesting above and beyond what we have; and the rest would be in different places within the crime bill.
Q: But almost all of them -- in fact, it's a prison treatment?
DR. BROWN: Is all of it prison treatment?
MR. CARNAVALE: Yes, most of it would be in the prison system.
DR. BROWN: The criminal justice system, which would mean people under supervision as well.
Q: What about prison treatment in your budget? How does that -- and treatment of people in the criminal justice system already? How do you --
DR. BROWN: Under existing policies, the treatment in the criminal justice system -- or, sorry, in the prisons, people who are incarcerated, are handled by the jurisdiction. If it's a state prison, it's handled by the state. If it's a local jail, it's handled by the local manager of the jail.
Q: How much of your proposal is addressed to marijuana and interdiction of marijuana or treatment? Did you break it down?
DR. BROWN: No, we did not break it down, but our efforts are mandated to address all illicit drugs. That includes marijuana, but it's not broken down.
Q: How much money do you really need to do the job?
DR. BROWN: Have we figured that one out yet? (Laughter.) I'm not sure we have a definitive answer for you. What we would like to do is to have what the President's called for, that's treatment on demand. Now, the health care reform package will go a long ways toward helping us address that. We do believe even when we have treatment on demand -- I'm sorry, the health care reform package, which provides substance abuse treatment for all Americans, there still will be a need for our block grant, our public assistance to help deal with the hard-core drug use. We also want to make sure that we have an effective prevention program.
It's probably important to point out that when we look at the drug control policy, we are looking at more than just a lineitem on the budget that says narcotics. We believe that the 100,000 more police officers under community policing is drug control. We believe that our enterprise zones is part of our drug control program. We believe that health care reform is part of our drug control program. The reason is because if we're going to really be successful in addressing the issue, we have to address the symptom as well as the underlying causes. So drug control under this administration will be a fundamental part of our plans, policies and programs to address domestic problems in general.
Q: I realize you are not wanting to abandon the interdiction net. Would the net result of this shift of resources not mean a reduced federal presence at the border?
DR. BROWN: No, when we talk about the control shift, we really talk about the transit zones, not our borders. We'll continue an effort there. In fact, you'll probably see an increase along our borders as a result of NAFTA. We'll put more resources on borders.
Q: So you're going to reduce federal presence at the transit zones?
DR. BROWN: There's a shift in resources at the transit zones. Some of the shift has already taken place. For example, there was a substantial cut from the Department of Defense by the Congress this year -- about $300 million. That cut took place this fiscal year. And so we're holding that level for fiscal year 1995.
We will remain -- will continue to have a presence in the transit zones. We won't ever abandon that because, as I indicated earlier, it should be expected that the drug trafficking organizations will change their strategies just as they did with our
strong presence in the transit zones. So we'll have the capacity to respond when we see a change take place.
Q: A couple of months ago when Dr. Elders made her comments about maybe drug legalization should be looked at, studied, and you and several other people said, no, that's the administration policy. A lot of people, including Mr. Bennett, said that was the only thing they really heard about drug policy and that was -- and now you come out with a statement today. Did they create a problem or has that created a problem for the administration because some people may still remember that that was the first thing --
DR. BROWN: The premise upon which your statement is based is not true. The President has spoken out at least 85 times on drugs last year alone. I was with him in Memphis where he gave two speeches. One got covered, but he gave two speeches that day. He and I even got out and walked the streets and talked to the people. We have been addressing it. The President's resolve to address the drug problem is not questioned, evidenced by many things that are already taking place.
For example, he elevated my position to a Cabinet level position, which I think goes a long ways in assisting us getting the resources we need to address the problem. He issued an executive order which gave more authority to my office in dealing with budget issues of the some 50 different agencies involved in drug control at the federal level. He issued a presidential directive to assist us in giving my office more authority in dealing with interdiction.
So we can go on and on, but the point is that the premise upon which the question is based is not true. The President has demonstrated over and over again his resolve, even to the extent it was a major issue in his State of the Union message.
Q: Do you think you'll get all that you're requesting in the light that the Congress is saying let's get tough; the public is saying lock them up, throw the keys away? Are you sure that the shift towards prevention instead of just punishment is going to fly on the Hill?
DR. BROWN: We are not going to be successful in dealing with the crime and the violence problem unless we deal with the drug problem, particularly the chronic hard-core addicted drug user. They are the ones who commit a disproportionate amount of the crime. I think most Americans see that connection. They see clearly a connection between drugs, crime and violence. They want something done. They want the senseless crime and the violence to stop. And therefore, they're supportive of the efforts to deal with the crime in a way that we have not -- or the drug problem -- in a way we have not done before.
A big problem in the drug issue is the addict. Unless you deal with the addict through treatment, you're not going to deal with the problem. I think most people understand that. As I talk to people in Congress, they understand it as well. The fact that we have a crime control bill at the magnitude it is right now is because the American people have sent a very clear message. They're sick and tired and fed up of crime and violence. They know that there is a direct relationship between crime, violence and drugs.
I see it. I don't know a family, as I travel throughout the country, I haven't seen a family yet that has not been touched by the drug problem in one way or another. It's understood, and I'm very optimistic that the Congress will give the President what he's asking for in his drug control strategy.
Q: The main shift that the administration is promoting in this strategy is toward treatment and prevention, yet the event
today took place in a jail. Could you describe why a jail was chosen as the place?
DR. BROWN: It also has a well-known, well-respected and a very -- and a model treatment program. We believe in treatment within the criminal justice system. If you arrest tens of thousands of people every year and the majority of them have a substance abuse problem, it makes good sense that you use the coercive power of the criminal justice system to get them into treatment. It's also why we support drug courts and boot camps. Again, getting people into treatment. If we can get them into treatment, it makes a difference. People who are in treatment commit less crimes. The longer they stay in treatment, the more likelihood of success. So we're there because they represent a model of what can be done under the auspice of criminal justice correctional institution to deal with treatment.
Q: What kind of difficulty do you have to deal with if you are trying to convince other countries to go closer together with you? And how about the need to define and to implement kind of a worldwide strategy to push that kind of --
DR. BROWN: Our country will continue to provide leadership worldwide because this is a global problem. We will have a strategy for this hemisphere as well as working with other countries in developing strategies for their hemisphere, working through the United Nations. We're working with the various organizations -- Organization of American States, United Nations and others -- in terms of developing regional strategies which will fold into a global, worldwide strategy.
I personally went to Latin America and visited Panama and Colombia and Bolivia and Peru. And I did that because I think it's very important for one who's responsible for making public policy to see what goes on in those countries. And our strategy will differ from one country to another. I was very pleased with some of the progress that's being made there -- progress that has not been reported on in the last few years.
Colombia, for example, has probably demonstrated more political wield to address the drug problem than probably any other country, evident by the fact that they spend about 10 dollars for every dollar we provide them with. Bolivia, under its new President, has developed a long-term plan to address the problem there. We're still working with Peru in some of the things that need to be done there in terms of other problems, plus developing a long-term plan.
But in addition to our efforts to change our interdiction efforts, we also want to continue to have leadership in addressing the problem because it is a global problem.
END 2:54 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Director of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Lee Brown Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269503