April 09, 2018

Warren, Murray Question President Trump on Implementing White House Opioid Commission Recommendations

Commission Issued 56 Recommendations Over Five Months Ago

Text of letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today sent a letter to President Donald Trump pressing him on his implementation of the 56 recommendations issued by his Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

President Trump established the Commission on March 29, 2017 to "study ways to combat and treat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction, and the opioid crisis." After soliciting input from Governors, Members of Congress, nonprofit organizations, medical professionals, treatment providers, individuals and families impacted by the opioid crisis, and other members of the public, the Commission published its list of final recommendations on November 1, 2017.

"Over five months have passed since the Commission issued its final recommendations," wrote the senators. "We are concerned, however, by reports that in spite of the opioid epidemic's devastating impact on American communities, your Administration has failed to act aggressively to combat it."

The president declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on October 26, 2017, but there has been little evidence that his Administration has taken advantage of the executive branch authorities and resources provided by this designation.  In recent months, President Trump proposed slashing the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) budget by $340 million, nominated an ONDCP Director with no experience in public health or addiction policy, and has reportedly relied on aides with limited public health expertise to coordinate the White House's opioid response. Meanwhile, the critical position of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator remains empty.

The Commission identified areas for action by federal agencies and the White House-sometimes working with Congress-in a multi-pronged Administration effort to coordinate federal responses to the epidemic, expand funding for affected communities, increase access to substance use disorder treatment, and reduce opioid misuse. Senators Warren and Murray requested information on the Administration's progress in implementing the Commission's recommendations and the efforts to coordinate the opioid response across the federal government by April 23, 2018.

Senators Warren and Murray have also requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review actions by the Trump Administration to address the opioid epidemic since President Trump declared a public health emergency in October 2017. The GAO has accepted their request.