Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Senator Charles Schumer, both Democrats, turned out at the LGBT Community Center on World AIDS Day to announce they had secured $825,000 in federal funding for the crystal methamphetamine prevention and treatment program developed there.
“We are very lucky to have these three champions,” said executive director Richard Burns in an interview, referring to Nadler, Schumer and Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Burns explained that the Center spent two years educating the U.S. Congress about the need for federal funding.
“We have not received a single federal contract under Bush,” said Burns, “and we concluded it was due to homophobia.”
Earlier federal grants made by President Bill Clinton’s administration expired and were not renewed by the Bush administration, according to Burns.
“We would keep on applying, but kept getting rejected,” he said.
After studying successful lobbying efforts by mainstream organizations, the Center decided to change its tactics, and target so called “federal line item” money allocated by Congress, thereby bypassing governmental agencies controlled by the Bush administration.
“We went directly to Congress,” said Burns. Working together with the Center, Burns said, Nadler, Schumer, and Clinton “have championed the Center’s drug prevention program.”
The federal money, to be distributed over a two-year period, constitutes a hefty portion of the Center’s annual six million dollar budget. Burns said the Center would now be able to expand and enhance prevention programs and counseling targeting crystal meth users. While emphasizing the strong correlation between crystal meth abuse and HIV infection, Burns also described the drug as one of the central social issues facing today’s gay community.
Health care professionals often refer to deep-seated feelings of isolation as the main driving propellants for individuals who start using crystal meth. Burns argued that the drug was prevalent across ethnic backgrounds and generations, refuting the notion that it was a problem isolated to young, white gay men.
“The drug is used by a broad range of gay men of all races and ages,” he said. “Many gay men use the drug to lower their social anxiety and to seek intimacy and connection with other gay men.”
Another result of the new funding is that the Center will be able to continue its support of other organizations. A written statement from Dr. Barbara Warren, the Center’s director of research and planning, said: “This federal funding will enable the Center to enhance our community-based crystal meth prevention and education campaigns, expand and improve how we do early intervention and relapse prevention for crystal meth users, and extend help and support to other LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse treatment organizations so that together we can build a network of more effective crystal meth prevention and treatment services.”
Schumer and Nadler both spoke to the serious threat crystal meth poses to the health of the New York gay community.
“The best way to turn this trend around is to get federal funds into the hands of front-line service providers like the Center,” said Nadler. “Today we’re demonstrating that the Center has Congress’ full support.”
As recently reported by the Gay City News, the Bronx Consortium, an LGBT community organization in the South Bronx, will receive a $100,000 federal grant made possible through the efforts of Democratic Congressman José Serrano.