Executive order lays out blueprint for Trump opioid commission

STAT – An executive order being prepared by the Trump administration would set an ambitious timetable for new recommendations to address the nation’s opioid crisis and appoint top administration officials to oversee the effort, according to a draft obtained by STAT.

The administration is expected to unveil a commission focused on the nation’s opioid epidemic soon. The panel would be composed of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to the draft order. Another five members from state governments, law enforcement, and other groups would fill it out.

The Washington Post reported this week that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would chair the commission.

The draft order could be changed before it is officially issued. The White House declined to comment.

The panel’s mission would be to identify federal funding streams that could be directed to address the crisis, for everything from medical treatments to long-term support services. The commission would also aim to identify areas in the United States with limited treatment options, review ways to prevent opioid addiction — including possible changes to prescribing practices — and consider changes to the criminal justice system to provide support for incarcerated individuals after their release from prison.

The Office for National Drug Control Policy would support the commission, according to the draft order, and the office’s director — commonly known as the nation’s “drug czar” — would represent the president. The White House has interviewed candidates for the ONDCP post, but not yet appointed a director.

The commission would make interim recommendations within three months of its establishment along with a final report in October, according to the draft order. The agencies involved in its efforts would be expected to quickly take administrative and regulatory actions implementing those policies.

The opioid crisis is now killing more than 30,000 Americans annually, and Trump swore during the campaign to end it. The commission would be a high-profile public step to fulfill that promise.

However, some advocates within the recovery community are already frustrated that Trump has not yet filled key posts, like ONDCP director, and that his other policy proposals clash with his stated goals. A new spending plan reported Tuesday would cut the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s mental health block grant by $100 million this year. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget for HHS would have cut the agency’s funding by nearly 20 percent.

The Republican health care bill that failed last week, and which Trump lobbied for, would also have rolled back requirements for Medicaid coverage of addiction treatment and dramatically overhauled that program, the single largest provider of mental health and addiction coverage in the country.