Donald Trump And Chris Christie’s New Commission Will Take On The Opioid Crisis

In a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, the president pledged progress in the fight against addiction.

President Donald Trump is creating a new commission to help combat the United States' opioid addiction crisis that now takes more than 47,000 lives every year.

On Wednesday, President Trump hosted a public roundtable discussion with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who will serve as chair of the commission. During the emotional meeting of former addicts, law enforcement, members of Trump's cabinet, and Christie, people shared their horror stories of addiction and loss.

"Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States," Trump said. "Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in our country, and opioid deaths have nearly quadrupled since 1999."

The commission will be responsible for reviewing current funding available, recommending changes to criminal law, and determining the best practices for treatment, according to Politico, which obtained a draft of an executive order related to the commission. 

On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly promised to solve the opioid crisis. During his presidential run, Gov. Christie told the story of his mother's addiction to nicotine and a friend of his from law school who overdosed on Percocet at the age of 52. Christie made the point that his mother got lung cancer treatment even though everyone knew cigarettes were bad. Similarly, he said, his friend should have gotten appropriate treatment even though people know Percocet is bad; the same logic used for cigarette-smoking cancer patients should be used for those addicted to heroin and opioids. 

"I'm just so honored that the president would ask me to take on this task with the group we've put together," Christie said. "The most important thing to me is I think the president and I both agree: addiction is a disease. And it's a disease that can be treated ... folks don't talk about it."

The roundtable came on the same day two of Gov. Christie's aides were sentenced to jail time for their role in the Bridgegate scandal.  

While many are giving the president and Christie credit for addressing this issue so early in Trump's presidency, others have also pointed out that the president has proposed billion-dollar cuts to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in his budget, which has raised concerns for many in the health care world. There is also the simple fact that this issue is, in many ways, already being addressed.

In December, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which gave the NIH close to $1 billion over the next two years to help provide treatment.

"It's a really important continuation of the policy development that legitimizes substance use disorder (SUD) as a health care disease that needs serious treatment," Marvin Ventrell, the executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), told A Plus in December. "A billion dollars over the course of two years specifically for SUD is huge."

Still, the fact the president would host this listening session so early — and bring in a big name like Christie to chair the commission — is a sign this administration is serious about solving the addiction epidemic in the United States.

"Every life is an individual life from God, and no one life is irredeemable," Christie said on Wednesday. "People make mistakes, we all have, and when people make mistakes of drug use, and it is a mistake, we can't throw their life away.
Cover image: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock


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