July 20, 2018

Warren Questions Trump Administration on Ongoing Failures to Address Opioid Crisis

President Trump's Emergency Declaration Set to Expire for the Third Time; Administration Undermining Programs Critical to Fight Epidemic

Text of letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned President Donald Trump on his "pathetic" response to address the opioid crisis. Eight months after President Trump declared the epidemic a "Nationwide Public Health Emergency," Senator Warren wrote that the Trump Administration has "failed to take the actions needed to meaningfully address this crisis ... (and has) continued to substitute empty words and broken promises for real action and bold ideas."

In her nine-page letter, Senator Warren criticized the budget, staffing, implementation, and policy failures that have prevented the Trump Administration from meeting the President's promise to "liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction."

She asked President Trump for a list of all actions his Administration has taken in response to the declaration of and extension of his emergency declaration, whether he will extend the emergency declaration, and if so what new steps his Administration will take as a result. Senator Warren also asked for a status update on the implementation of the fifty-six recommendations made by the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and called for a prompt response to her other requests for information on the qualifications of key personnel occupying leadership positions related to the opioid crisis. 

It has been eight months since the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued its final report with fifty-six recommendations, and the vast majority of them have yet to be implemented.  Experts and observers have noted that "nothing is actually being done," and that the Commission has been "ignored entirely," and concluded that Administration efforts have been "ambiguous promises" that are "falling far short of what is needed" and are "not ... addressing the epidemic with the urgency it demands."

President Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency almost nine months ago but has neither pursued a substantial commitment of federal money nor put in place a clear strategy to combat the epidemic. There is also little indication that the Administration has experienced personnel in place to coordinate a clear strategy on the epidemic. President Trump assigned Kellyanne Conway to "coordinate and lead" the White House opioid response despite her lack of experience in public health or addiction policy. In February, President Trump nominated James Carroll who also appears to have no experience in public or behavioral health policy, to run the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Senator Warren has not received answers to her questions about these individuals' qualifications. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now being run by its third acting head, and it took President Trump eighteen months to nominate a permanent head of the agency. 

President Trump and his Administration also continue to undermine the nation's most valuable addiction-fighting programs like the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, and have proposed slashing the ONDCP budget by ninety-five percent, cutting more than half of the funding for health workforce programs under HRSA, slashing the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and cutting almost one-third of funding for SAMHSA's Mental Health Programs of Regional and National Significance grants.

Senator Warren requested that President Trump answer her questions by no later than July 23, 2018.