Trump Taps Chris Christie To Lead Opioid Crisis Panel

By Kelly Burch 03/30/17

The commission will recommend possible solutions to President Trump about how to address the opioid crisis.

Chris Christie and Donald Trump discussing the opioid crisis.
Photo via YouTube

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will chair a commission that will give President Trump recommendations for how best to combat the opioid epidemic, according to announcements made Wednesday morning. 

“We want to help those who have become so badly addicted,” Trump said during a White House discussion of the opioid epidemic. The president pointed out that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths, and that opioid overdose rates have quadrupled since 1999. “This is a total epidemic and it’s almost un-talked about compared to the severity.”

Christie appeared on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning to discuss the commission. 

“[Addiction] is an epidemic in our country and what this task force hopes to do is to look at the issue of prevention, obviously interdiction of drugs before they come to our country, but also, and very importantly, the issue of treatment,” Christie said. “Addiction is a disease and we need to treat it that way and we need to get the people the help that they need to renew their lives and help become productive members of society and our families.”

Christie said that the commission will study federal and state responses, and make recommendations for ways to effectively fight opioid addiction going forward. The panel will “come back to the president with recommendations about how to address this problem and give some hope to families who are being torn apart by this problem across the country,” he said. 

The panel will include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to information released earlier in the week. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is also expected to serve on the commission, joining other lawmakers from around the country. 

In his opening remarks at the addiction discussion, Trump emphasized the extent of the opioid epidemic. “It’s really one of the biggest problems our country has and nobody wants to talk about it,” he said. 

Trump thanked the mother of an overdose victim and said her son “would not have died in vain.” He also acknowledged two people in the audience who were in recovery. “We need to help people [like these] who have struggled through the dark depths of addiction and found this bright promise of recovery,” he said. 

Trump said that the greatest moment of Christie’s failed presidential campaign came when the governor shared that a friend had died of a drug overdose. “It can happen to anyone,” Christie said at the time. “And so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them.”

However, on Wednesday morning, Trump returned to favoring a law enforcement approach to "fighting" addiction, calling for increased enforcement and dismantling of the drug cartels. He also returned to his claim that drugs come into the country “cheaper than candy.”

During his appearance on Good Morning America Wednesday morning, Christie was asked about the failed Republican healthcare bill, which would have removed the requirement for Medicaid to cover addiction services. The bill, Christie said, was just a start. “This is far from over.”

For now, however, the focus should be on finding a solution for the opioid epidemic, Christie emphasized. “This is killing our families in every corner of the country.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.