Top Democrat Slams Trump And His Opioid Crisis Commission

In March, President Trump signed an executive order creating The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction And The Opioid Crisis, which received praise from both sides of the aisle. Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) was named chairman of the commission and it quickly resembled a legitimate bipartisan effort to curb the current addiction epidemic in this country, calling for scientific studies and advice from medical experts. Now, a group of Democrats in Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are less than pleased with the performance of the commission so far. Schumer (D-NY) strongly criticized the commission in public and announced he and 19 other senators have sent a letter to the White House demanding urgent action.

Why Are Democrats Mad?

Sen. Schumer insisted that it was not a partisan issue or matter of politics at all, but rather an issue with “inertia.” He accused the White House of prolonging a national emergency and not prioritizing what is now widely considered to be an epidemic. In fact, at the time the President signed the executive order in March, he said himself that, “This is an epidemic that knows no boundaries and shows no mercy, and we will show great compassion and resolve as we work together on this important issue.”

Trump’s new commission has now missed two deadlines. The recent deadline was meant to outline a strategy and specific course of action to curb the public health crisis revolving around prescription opioid addiction and skyrocketing overdose death rates. The original deadline was set for June 27th and since has missed its July deadline and rescheduled to July 31st. The missed deadline is causing politicians, activists, and medical experts alike to question the legitimacy of the new commission and whether they are truly committed to addressing opioid addiction.

As a result, Sen. Schumer publicly denounced the missed deadlines, saying, “The administration and the commission need to stop dragging its feet on steps that could help save lives,” he then went on to say, “There’s money available. The commission is supposed to put the best ways to spend that, and they haven’t done that.”

Who Else Is Displeased With The Opioid Crisis Commission?

In addition to criticism over missed deadlines, the group of Democrats, along with nearly 700 addiction experts, have voiced their concern over recent statements by Tom Price, Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has expressed skepticism about mainstream addiction treatment programs, which are currently backed by science and recent studies. Price publicly stated in May that medication-assisted treatments (MAT), like methadone and buprenorphine, were simply “substituting one opioid for another.”

In response to Price’s statement about MAT, nearly 700 addiction and medical experts wrote a signed letter to The Secretary urging him to reevaluate his opinion and to “set the record straight.” This letter also explained that MAT has been a standard form of opioid addiction treatment for years and that ample scientific evidence shows its effectiveness. Many experts and researchers are concerned that the commission is not entirely committed to proven methods to fight addiction, but rather a regression to the discredited “just say no” and “hard on crime” policy of yesteryear.


What Exactly Does The Senate Letter Say?

  1. More Urgency!!

The letter specifically criticizes the commission for its lack of urgency and accountability. It asks the commission to stick to its word and show the “great compassion” it promised to American citizens.

  1. Deaths On The Rise

The letter mentions the massive increase in nationwide drug overdose deaths earlier reported this year, which saw a 19% increase from 2015 to 2016. It also cited a more recent study that found there were 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City alone in 2016, compared with 937 the previous year.

  1. Tom Price

The letter also denounced the recent statements by Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding the effectiveness of currently accepted treatment types. “[Price] vouched for methods that would ‘cure’ people of their opioid addiction,” the letter read. “Such rhetoric is archaic and out of line with the well-accepted fact that opioid addiction may require lifelong management as a chronic condition.”

  1. Healthcare Reform

The letter also noted that proposed cuts to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid would gut available addiction treatment options for millions of people, further adding fuel to the fire. The ACA currently requires insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse services under basic plans. Many proposed cuts would take away this requirement, leaving millions with limited insurance policies.

What Will It Take?

To curb this crisis and truly treat addiction, there must be a comprehensive plan in place that treats every aspect and phase of the recovery process. More funding must be given to harm reduction centers and public health clinics, who often are the first to make contact with addicts wanting help. Then, more funding must be allocated to treating addiction for those who cannot afford it via special grants or by expanding public health care options. Drug laws and policies will also require reform in order to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction so that people wanting help feel comfortable and safe asking for it. Most importantly, the United States must truly recognize addiction as a medical disorder and public health crisis, rather than a crime.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

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