President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week creating a new opioid commission to study and look for solutions regarding the opioid addiction crisis happening around the country.
The executive order assigns the commission with the following tasks: find existing federal money to combat all all drug addiction, evaluate the availability of addiction treatment centers and identify underserved areas, measure how well state policies regarding prescription drug monitoring are working, and determine best practices for drug use prevention.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is leading the commission, and will submit a report to the White House by Oct. 1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has suggested a criminal approach to the opioid problem, will also serve on the commission.
Christie led many efforts in New Jersey to curb that state’s opioid epidemic, including increasing treatment centers and enacting a mandatory waiting period for all opioid prescriptions. This issue was something he talked about when campaigning during the Republican primary, emphasizing addiction is a disease just like cancer, and should receive similar resources. Christie is an outspoken proponent of getting addicts treatment and not treating them as criminals.
Heroin use has dramatically increased over the last decade, especially among uneducated, poor white men. A demographic that largely voted for Trump.
A recent report from the Surgeon General shows 20 million people in America struggle with substance abuse, and 78 people die every day from opioids. 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015, a level that causes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to label the issue an epidemic.
The report echoes the executive order’s need for accessible treatment programs. It says that treatment for opioid addiction works for those struggling with drug use.
The Surgeon General’s report also emphasises that addiction is a neurological disease, not a criminal issue, and estimates the U.S. spends $420 billion each year on criminal justice procedures and drug abuse treatment.
This commission is formed after the White House released its proposed budget, which included cuts to the National Institute for Health and the CDCl. But money is being allocated to the wall along the Mexico border, which Trump says will keep out drug dealers as well as the drugs Americans are addicted to.
The budget does keep in place $500 million in the 21st Century Cures Act to combat opioid addiction.