Should Trump Name an Opioid Policy Czar?

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President Trump’s opioid commission delivered more than 50 ideas to help combat the epidemic, involving more than a dozen agencies. No one’s in charge of implementing that overall plan — which means no one’s accountable for its progress, reports Some experts say there’s a strong case for giving one person the authority to spearhead an opioid response that will need to be far-reaching and multifaceted to be successful. Ron Klain, who served as President Obama’s “Ebola czar,” said that if Trump “really wants a high-tempo pace of action, really driving action at a wide array of agencies, then perhaps a [White House] coordinator would make sense. If this is a PR stunt, with no real policy or action behind it, than a WH coordinator adds nothing, and just highlights how lagging it is.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is generally in charge of monitoring epidemics. The Food and Drug Administration is re-examining its regulatory rules with an eye toward broader use of medication-assisted therapy, like methadone. It also regulates the design and marketing of opioids that are already on the market. There are roles not just for health care agencies, but also law enforcement. That has to be coordinated not just within the federal government, but with relevant agencies in all 50 states. “It seems it would be worthwhile to have a separate individual that’s focused exclusively on the tasks that are required to fight the current epidemic,” said David Fiellin, a Yale public health professor who led a task force that came up with Connecticut’s plan for the opioid epidemic. Normally, the lead role would fall to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which lacks a Senate-confirmed director.

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