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Editorial: Recruit NJ Gov. Chris Christie to Be Our Next Drug Czar

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at March 2, 2017

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a former cabinet-level component of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, was established in 1989 by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Its stated goal is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives to eradicate illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences in the U.S.

The Director of National Drug Control Policy, colloquially known as the Drug Czar, heads the office. “Drug Czar” was a term first used in the media by then-Senator Joe Biden in October 1982. Recovery advocates were stunned and pleased that President Obama appointed Michael Botticelli to be Director in March 2014, as Mr. Botticelli is openly in recovery from alcoholism.

President Obama referred to him as the “recovery czar,” because he was open about his own recovery and helped shift the office’s policies toward treating addiction as a health condition rather than a moral failing.

At the present moment, under President Trump, drug policy and advocacy groups have become alarmed by a New York Times report that the Office of Management and Budget has placed the ONDCP on the chopping block, and have banded together in the midst of the national opioid crisis to author a letter forcefully opposing the move.

The letter obtained by CBS News, titled “Retain the Office of National Drug Control Policy,” was written by over 70 medical and drug policy organizations, such as Addiction Policy Forum, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Smart Approaches to Marijuana and the Major County Sheriffs of America.

The National Fraternal Order of Police also released a letter to the President this week, urging the administration to “reject any notion or proposal to eliminate the ONDCP and in fact, urge you to ensure that the budget prioritizes its efforts and those of State and local law enforcement to combat the use and sale of illegal narcotics.”

The report of the OMB’s plans to cut the ONDCP does not necessarily align with the White House’s plans, however: Sources tell CBS News that former New Hampshire Congressman Frank Guinta is under consideration to head the office in the role of Drug Czar — the colloquial title for the head of ONDCP — and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in talks with the White House to chair a specialized task force.

While the State of New Hampshire certainly has been one of many “ground zero” locations for the opioid epidemic, we think that no one has done more at the state level to take the Substance Use Disorder epidemic head-on is NJ Governor Christie and should be the next Drug Czar.

In his final budget address on Tuesday, Gov. Christie called for hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to help disabled adults stay in their homes, expand graduate medical education and build on his ongoing work to improve addiction services, among other healthcare-related priorities.

But one of the most newsworthy notions Christie championed in his speech was not actually factored into the $35.6 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2018: a plea for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurance provider, to create a charitable fund that could be used to help pay for drug treatment for those without health coverage or other services for vulnerable residents. The nonprofit has had a historic role caring for the New Jersey’s poor citizens, but in recent years the company has amassed billions in surplus and annual revenues, he said, insisting it should do more to help offset the state’s escalating healthcare costs. The governor also pledged to include $430 million in the budget for addiction services, a 52 percent increase from the year he took office, although Treasury officials were unable to provide any detail on this spending Tuesday. Christie has prioritized anti-addiction efforts almost exclusively in recent months and dedicated much of his State of the State address in January to the topic.

Here is a great video of one of his most important speeches: https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostPolitics/videos/10153519228277911/

His point – he’s a “pro-life” governor; not just for the 9 months in the womb.

It’s time to think across all party lines and to think about who the right person may be for our next Drug Czar. If not, Michael Botticelli, Gov. Chris Christie seems to have more than the passion and experience to continue the great progress and strides our nation has made over the past 8 years.

Be well.

See also:
The Latest: Christie Signs Anti-opioid Addiction Bill
Christie gets hero’s welcome at candlelight vigil for drug addiction
Christie hopes more addicts will get treatment under Trump
Chris Christie continues to talk about drug addiction on the campaign trail

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