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  • Washington Highlights

    White House Forms Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    President Trump March 29 signed an Executive Order establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis (Commission).

    Led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Executive Order states that the Commission will “study the scope and effectiveness of the Federal response to drug addiction and the opioid crisis.” Specifically, the Commission has been charged with:

    • Identifying existing funds to combat drug addiction and opioids;
    • Reviewing the availability and accessibility of addiction treatment services;
    • Reporting on best practices, including health care provider education and evaluation of prescription practices, and the effectiveness of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs); and
    • Assessing the effectiveness of existing prevention messaging and federal prevention programs.

    The president will appoint or designate members of the Commission. The Executive Order also calls for the membership to be “fairly balanced” relative to the functions performed.

    The Commission must submit an interim report to the president within 90 days and a final report with findings and recommendations by Oct. 1, unless an extension is necessary. Additionally, the Commission will be terminated 30 days after submitting its final report.

    Coinciding with the signing of the new executive order, President Trump March 29 held a listening session on opioids and drug abuse. The President was joined by Gov. Christie, along with several members of the administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Don Wright, among others. Other local officials and advocates attended the meeting as well.

    President Trump opened the discussion, stating, “Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in our country.” Gov. Christie added, “The President and I both agree that addiction is a disease, and it's a disease that can be treated, and that we need to make sure we let people know.”

    The new White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Acting Director Rich Baum also attended the listening session. Press reports announced that Mr. Baum was selected to replace Kemp Chester, previous ONDCP Acting Director. Known for his “supply side” lens to drug policy, Mr. Baum has worked as a career federal employee at ONDCP throughout previous administrations, in addition to serving as congressional staff.

    ONDCP is charged with providing administrative support for the new Commission.