President Donald Trump appointed a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House commission addressing the opioid crisis Wednesday, with GOP Gov. Chris Christie at the helm.
Trump originally tapped Christie to lead the administration’s efforts to address rising death rates from heroin and prescription painkillers in March, but had yet to fill the commission with other lawmakers or policy experts. Christie and fellow GOP Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts will work with North Caroline Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and former Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy to address the addiction crisis, reports CNN.
Trump also named Bertha Madras, a former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, to the commission.
“There’s going to be lots of different pieces to try and solve this problem,” Christie said in January, when he declared opioid abuse a public health crisis in New Jersey. “It’s a disease; we’re doing this because it could be anybody.”
A record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, contributing to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsing deaths from motor vehicle accidents.
Trump signed an executive order creating the commission on March 29, requiring interim recommendations for addressing opioid addiction within 90 days. The commission will review existing programs tackling drug abuse and treatment and will make final recommendations to Trump by Oct. 1, reports The Hill.
The White House sparked outrage May 5 when news surfaced Trump planned to cut the budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent in his forthcoming budget proposal. The proposal, expected to be released in full at the end of May, allegedly calls for funding to the office to be slashed from $388 million to $24 million.
Bipartisan critics say the cuts appear to contradict pledges from Trump to curb drug abuse.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will address the opioid crisis Thursday in a speech at the DEA360 Heroin and Opioid Response Summit in Charleston, W.Va.
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