By Laura Santhanam
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will lead a new national opioid commission created Wednesday by an executive order from President Donald Trump that also maps out his administration’s latest strategy to combat the public health crisis.
The fight against the opioid epidemic is “one that’s incredibly important to every family in every corner of this country,” Christie said Wednesday in an interview with The Today Show, adding he and Trump “both care passionately about this issue and we want to save lives.”
“Addiction is a disease, and no life is disposable. We can help people by giving them appropriate treatment,” Christie said.
Trump tweeted late Wednesday that his signed executive order would create a presidential commission designed to combat opioid addiction and the opioid crisis.
According to Trump’s signed order, the commission is designed to:
- Identify existing federal dollars to combat drug addiction, including opioids;
- Assess availability and access to addiction treatment centers and overdose reversal and identify underserved areas;
- Measure the effectiveness of state prescription drug monitoring programs;
- Evaluate public messaging campaigns about prescription and illegal opioids, and identify best practices for drug prevention.
In 90 days, the commission will submit an interim report to Trump with its findings. It will submit a final report by Oct. 1, unless more time is needed, according to the executive order. The commission will dissolve a month later.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to tackle the nation’s opioid crisis. But in February, the New York Times reported the Trump Administration planned to eliminate the White House Office for National Drug Control Policy, a three-decades-old office that President Ronald Reagan and Congress created to orchestrate the country’s drug policy and strategies. The report concerned public health officials who worried about lost resources in the middle of nationwide opioid epidemic.
The executive order signed Wednesday by Trump asks that office to help the commission carry out some of its tasks. It does not make mention of what will happen to the “drug czar,” a leadership position created by President Ronald Reagan. President Barack Obama’s most recent appointee, Michael Botticelli, promoted expanded access to naloxone and other kinds of treatment, and shepherded a prescription drug monitoring program that is active in all states except Missouri. He also made headlines for being the first person in the position to be openly recovering from addiction.
The national drug control policy office referred questions from the NewsHour to the White House, which did not respond to requests for comment.