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Mental Health, Drug Abuse Agencies Revamped

July 11, 1992|From Associated Press

KENNEBUNKPORT, Me. — President Bush signed legislation Friday that revamps programs dealing with mental health and alcohol and drug abuse and continues a ban on using federal money for free needles for drug users.

"Distributing free needles to drug users only encourages more drug use," Bush said in a statement at the start of a three-day holiday in Maine.

The legislation reorganizes the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bush said it "will help reduce the number of newborn children exposed to drugs and alcohol" and help those who suffer from a mental disorder. He said the government estimates that one-fourth of Americans are afflicted at some time in their lives.

"This legislation sends a message of hope to the men, women and children affected by substance abuse and mental illness in this country," he said in the statement.

The measure will continue to block grant money for needle-exchange programs because "there is no evidence that such programs reduce the incidence of HIV infection," Bush said.

Under the reorganization, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health will be brought into the National Institutes of Health. Bush said that alone will foster a greater exchange of information.

"This reorganization, proposed by the Administration, will create for the first time an agency that is focused solely on providing services to those who suffer from, or are vulnerable to, mental illness and addictive disorders," Bush said.

The President said despite the bill's positive features, he worries about the cost of steps that the legislation requires states to take. He said the purpose of block grants is to allow states flexibility to design programs to meet their needs.

"It is my intent that every effort be made to ensure that these mandates do not result in a reduction in the states' ability to provide treatment services to the greatest possible number of people in need," Bush said.

The White House released the presidential statement after his arrival at his vacation home from the summits in Munich and Geneva. The President quickly got into his recreation routine, taking his speedboat out for a spin in the ocean.

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