January 15th, 2018

I just discovered that I had missed that on the last workday of 2017, the Trump Administration officially responded to the final report of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The response takes the 56 recommendations of the Commission and organizes them into nine groups. The two of greatest interest to me are VII, regarding increasing access to treatment and IX, regarding increasing research on addiction treatment.

The response appears to have been written by the ONDCP or “drug czar’s” office, which makes sense to me. This agency, however, has been beleaguered with leadership and staff problems, as highlighted in a recent Washington Post investigative story. It is not clear what resources that office will have to implement its response.

Discovering the response led me to read more carefully the body of the original report of the Commission issued last November. I continue to be impressed by the thoroughness of the report – both its review of the evolution of the problem and its comprehensive recommendations for action. Readers who would like to get an overview of how the opioid crisis evolved would do well to start there.

The most basic question is whether the Administration’s response will make any practical difference. As readers of this blog know, I have been tracking the Administration’s response to the Opioid Crisis since the Commission was created almost one year ago. So far, I see a gradual decrease in the amount of attention being paid to this issue by the Administration. For example, the release of the initial Commission report in November was heralded with a large media event, but I was unable to find any media coverage of the Administration response in December.

Until I see evidence to the contrary, my conclusion continues to be that treatment for alcohol and drug addiction is not a high priority for the current Administration and that any hope for action will have to come at a state rather than at a federal level.

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