The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy manage federal grant programs that can support drug prevention activities in schools.
The agencies haven't clearly defined how their grant programs support the National Drug Control Strategy's goals. Although the agencies have performance measures for their programs, some of the measures:
Didn't relate to drug prevention
Didn't link directly to the Strategy's goals
Weren't reported at all in the Strategy
Our recommendations help the agencies clarify how grant programs support the prevention-related goals of the Strategy.
What GAO Found
The Department of Education (Education), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) manage six key federal grant programs that can support drug prevention activities in schools. The flexibility of these grants supports a variety of drug prevention education programs. The agencies generally monitor grantees' compliance with grant requirements through periodic reporting.
The aim of the National Drug Control Strategy (Strategy) is to reduce drug misuse, but HHS, and ONDCP have not fully defined how several key grant programs support the Strategy. ONDCP's guidance directs agencies to report, for each grant program, performance measures that relate to the Strategy's goals. However, some performance measures for several programs did not relate to drug prevention, did not link directly to the Strategy's prevention goals, or were not reported at all. For example:
- A $372 million set-aside for HHS's Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program must be used on drug prevention, but HHS did not link the program's performance measures to the Strategy's prevention education goal.
- ONDCP did not report on any performance measures in the Strategy or document how its $100 million Drug-Free Communities Support program contributes to achieving specific goals in the Strategy.
GAO also found that the approximately $10 million grants to states component of Education's School Climate Transformation Grant program could more fully provide performance information related to the Strategy's prevention education goal.
Fully understanding these programs' contributions to the goals of the National Drug Control Strategy could help Congress and the public better understand and assess how the nation's significant investments in drug prevention education programs help address the drug crisis.
Why GAO Did This Study
Most people who develop a substance use disorder begin using substances as adolescents. To reach adolescents, drug prevention programs are frequently provided in schools. Education, HHS, and ONDCP manage most federal programs that support school-based drug prevention activities.
This report (1) describes how Education, HHS, and ONDCP support drug prevention activities in schools, and monitor those efforts and (2) examines the extent to which these agencies identify how their prevention activities support the National Drug Control Strategy.
GAO reviewed agency documentation, the 2019 and 2020 National Drug Control Strategy documents which ONDCP identified as being most relevant to our review including the fiscal year 2019 drug control budget, ONDCP guidance, relevant federal laws, and GAO's prior work on attributes of successful performance measures that can help achieve agency goals. GAO also interviewed federal and state officials.
GAO is making four recommendations, including that Education, HHS, and ONDCP clarify how grants that can include drug prevention education programs support related goals of the National Drug Control Strategy. HHS and ONCP agreed with the recommendation and Education partially concurred, saying it would explore collecting and reporting related performance data.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Education||The Secretary of Education should work with grantees to collect and report performance information for the grants to state educational agencies component of the School Climate program that relate to achieving the prevention education goal of the National Drug Control Strategy. (Recommendation 1)|
|Department of Health and Human Services||The Secretary of Health and Human Services should clarify how the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) prevention set-aside contributes to the goals of the National Drug Control Strategy, including considering how the performance measures relate to the prevention education goal. (Recommendation 2)|
|Department of Health and Human Services||The Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine how the State Opioid Response program contributes to the prevention goals of the National Drug Control Strategy and develop performance measures that relate to achieving those goals including the prevention education goal. (Recommendation 3)|
|Office of National Drug Control Policy||The Director of ONDCP should report performance measures for the Drug-Free Communities Support program and clarify how those measures are being used to assess the program's contributions to achieving specific goals of the National Drug Control Strategy, in the relevant Strategy documents. (Recommendation 4)|