Drug-Free Communities Support Program: Agencies Have Strengthened Collaboration but Could Enhance Grantee Compliance and Performance Monitoring
What GAO Found
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) employ leading collaboration practices to administer the Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program and have funded a range of drug prevention activities. Both agencies have improved their collaboration since GAO last reported on the DFC program in 2008. Their current efforts to jointly manage the DFC Support program are consistent with GAO's relevant key collaboration practices. For example, ONDCP and SAMHSA defined and agreed upon common outcomes, such as prioritizing efforts to increase participation from under-represented communities. The two agencies have also funded a range of DFC grantees' activities and report on these activities in their annual evaluation reports. For example, ONDCP reported that from February through July 2014, grantees educated more than 156,000 youth on topics related to the consequences of substance abuse. To illustrate, the 10 grantees GAO interviewed described their specific efforts, including programs for
- Enhancing Skills: To enhance the skills of those in the community, one grantee sponsored a session for local realtors on precautions to take when preparing for open houses—warning them that leftover prescriptions in medicine cabinets present the potential for abuse among those walking through the home for sale.
- Enhancing Access/Reducing Barriers: To reduce cultural barriers, another grantee developed signs with text in the multiple languages spoken throughout the community that shopkeepers could display to emphasize the legal purchase age for alcohol.
- Providing Information: To provide greater information to parents on the consequences of providing alcohol in their homes, a grantee created a slogan to remind parents of their children's needs, “Be my Parent, not my Bartender.”
The agencies have operating procedures in place, but could enhance grantee compliance and performance monitoring. In particular, SAMHSA does not consistently follow documentation and reporting procedures to ensure grantees' compliance with governing statutes. SAMHSA also has not been accurately reporting to ONDCP on grantee compliance. Specifically for the files GAO reviewed, SAMHSA followed all processes for ensuring that initial applicants had submitted required documentation before awarding them initial grant funding. However, SAMHSA was less consistent in adhering to procedures for confirming documentation in later years of the program. For example, 14 of the 18 grantees that should have had sustainability plans in their files did not. These plans outline how the grantee intends to maintain necessary resources to achieve long-term goals after exiting the program. Prior to GAO's review, ONDCP and SAMHSA officials were not aware of the missing data in the grant files. Without close adherence to existing procedures, and a mechanism to ensure that the documentation it reports to ONDCP is accurate and complete, SAMHSA's performance monitoring capacity is limited and it cannot be certain that grantees are engaging in intended activities and meeting long-term goals.
Why GAO Did This Study
In 2015, approximately 2.2 million adolescents aged 12 to17 were current users of illicit drugs. The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997 established the DFC Support Program—a federal grant program supporting drug abuse prevention efforts that engage schools, law enforcement, and other sectors of a community. The program targets reductions in the use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and the illicit use of prescription drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006 includes a provision that GAO routinely assess ONDCP's programs and operations.
This report addresses: (1) the extent to which ONDCP and SAMHSA use leading practices to coordinate program administration and the types of activities funded; and (2) the extent to which ONDCP's and SAMHSA's' operating procedures both ensure DFC grantees comply with governing statutes and provide a basis for performance monitoring. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed agency policies from 2013-2015 (most recent available); interviewed agency officials; and analyzed coordination efforts against relevant key practices GAO identified previously. GAO reviewed files obtained from a non-generalizable random sample of 30 grantees and interviewed a random subset of 10.
GAO recommends that SAMHSA develop an action plan with time frames to strengthen DFC grant monitoring and ensure it sends complete and accurate information to ONDCP. SAMHSA concurred with these recommendations and identified actions to address them.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration||To better ensure grantees' compliance with the Drug-Free Communities Support Program's statutory requirements and to strengthen monitoring of grantee activities, SAMHSA should develop an action plan with time frames for addressing any deficiencies it finds through its reviews and making systemic changes to mitigate deficiencies on a prospective basis to strengthen the grant monitoring process.||
In February 2017, we found that SAMHSA did not consistently follow documentation and reporting procedures to ensure Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grantees' compliance with both the statutory provisions and established grant program terms and conditions. As a result, we recommended that SAMHSA develop an action plan with time frames to strengthen its grant monitoring process. In April 2017, SAMHSA officials reported to us that it developed a plan with times frames for conducting reviews of DFC grantees and strengthen its grant monitoring process. The plan included: (1) utilization of the newly deployed Grants Enterprise Management system in September 2017. (2) Ensuring that SAMSHA grant managers use the system to monitor all aspects of the DFC grant awards; (3) Requiring that all grant applications and grant continuation application submitted by the grantee and correspondence between the grantee and the grants manager and all other documentation related to the funding and monitoring of the grant awards, are uploaded into the system and become the official grant file by the end of 2018. Further, SAMHSA updated its training plan for its grants managers. In December 2018, SAMHSA reported to us that it had completed the steps outlined above to strengthen its monitoring of the grant process, the results of their audit conducted in August 2018, and their plans for a future audit in February 2019. The actions SAMHSA has taken should ensure greater compliance with statutory requirements and strengthen monitoring. As a result, we consider this recommendation as closed and implemented.
|Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration||To better ensure grantees' compliance with the Drug-Free Communities Support Program's statutory requirements and to strengthen monitoring of grantee activities, SAMHSA should develop and implement a method for ensuring that the grantee status reports it provides to ONDCP are complete and accurate.||
In February 2017, we found that SAMHSA inconsistently adhered to some procedures, particularly with respect to Drug-Free Community Support Program (DFC) grantees that are funded year after year, resulting in the persistence of missing or incomplete documentation in the official grantee files, and consequently inaccurate reporting of grantee status to ONDCP. As a result we recommended that SAMHSA develop and implement a method for ensuring that its grantee status reports are complete and accurate. In May 2018, SAMHSA officials reported to us that they developed a plan to strengthen its monitoring activities of DFC grantees by tracking the submission of required documents, including sustainability plans, from grantees whose grant terms are further along (continuation grantees) and conducting in-person audits. Moreover, SAMHSA grant managers would conduct audits of all its grantees at periodic intervals to ensure grant program compliance among grantees. SAMHSA would also provide copies of its findings to ONDCP and DFC grantees as well as ensure copies of the audits are housed in SAMHSA's grant monitoring system In August 2018, SAMHSA completed a "Compliance and Performance Monitoring" audit and series of site visits and submitted its results to ONDCP of all new and continuation grantees that did not meet eligibility requirements or required additional training to meet its requirements and minimize errors. In December 2018, SAMHSA reported that took the additional step of training grants managers on assisting DFC grantees in improving their documentation. The actions ONDCP and SAMHSA have taken should ensure greater compliance with statutory requirements and strengthen monitoring. As a result, we consider this recommendation as closed and implemented.