Christie tapped to head new committee to tackle US opioid crisis

christie opioid crisis

The Trump administration recently appointed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to chair a special commission to fight the opioid crisis in the country. And while Christie’s experience may qualify him for the position, the commission’s task may prove redundant, given a recent report by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, which detailed the extent of the nation’s opioid crisis.

The new committee falls under the new White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by White House aide and President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Gov. Christie has extensive experience dealing with the opioid crisis in the Garden State, where nearly 1,600 people lost their lives to opioids in 2015. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey suffered a statistically significant rise in the death rate from drug overdose between 2014 and 2016, with an increase of more than 16 percent.

In response to the worsening situation in the state, Gov. Christie signed Senate Bill 3 into law earlier this year. The bipartisan bill takes serious steps toward eradicating addiction by requiring insurance providers to cover addiction recovery programs. The bill also places limitations on prescriptions of opioids and other addictive substances and emphasizes increasing education about substance abuse. These measures — especially increasing access to substance abuse treatment centers — could help mitigate the damage addiction has done in New Jersey.

Whether or not the White House’s substance abuse commission will prove equally effective remains to be seen. According to a statement made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during the White House Press Briefing on March 29th, the first step “is understanding the problem, the magnitude of it and looking at how we approach it holistically.” However, this statement reveals one of the biggest concerns regarding the newly formed commission: that it will be retreading ground already covered by the previous investigation.

Less than six months ago, the U.S. Surgeon General released a comprehensive report entitled ‘Facing Addiction in America.’ Such reports are not issued as a matter of course but are instead published at the Surgeon General’s discretion when the country faces a serious public health concern that necessitates action. Previous reports have covered topics like HIV and AIDS, tobacco use and suicide prevention.

Dr. Murthy’s report did not involve additional research but instead analyzed a vast reservoir of available information to provide insight into the nationwide epidemic and recommend how the country should proceed. With this information already available, an important question is raised: why is the White House forming a committee to complete a task that was already completed?

One possibility is that the decision to… (continue reading)