Trump opioid commission backs more drug courts, media blitz

Trump opioid commission backs more drug courts, media blitz
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President Trump’s opioid commission laid out 56 recommendations for how the nation should combat the epidemic, including drug courts and a national media campaign, days after the crisis was declared a national public health emergency.

Members voted to approve the report, which was due Nov. 1, at the end of a meeting on Wednesday.

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The commission didn’t weigh in on the specific amount of money needed to combat the health crisis. President Trump's declaration of a public health emergency, which doesn't free up millions of dollars in extra cash, sparked calls for more funding by Democrats and advocacy groups.

But the report calls on Congress to determine the funding required.

“It is not the Commission's charge to quantify the amount of these resources, so we do not do so in this report.

"The Commission urges Congress to respond to the President's declaration of a public health emergency and fulfill their constitutionally delegated duty and appropriate sufficient funds to implement the Commission's recommendations. 175 Americans are dying every day. Congress must act."

Advocacy groups argue a robust infusion of federal dollars is needed to combat the epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin overdose deaths plaguing the nation. Without more money, they say, the emergency declaration won’t make a significant dent in the crisis.

The public health emergency fund doesn’t have much left — about $57,000.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who helms the commission, predicted Trump will initially ask “for billions of dollars to deal with this.”

“I think the president has got to sit down with Congress now and Congress has to put this money in,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

Here are some of the commission’s recommendations:

— A coordinated system: The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) should create a system to track all federally funded initiatives and invest only in effective programs. “We are operating blindly today; ONDCP must establish a system of tracking and accountability,” the report notes.

— A media campaign: The White House should fund and collaborate on a multiplatform media campaign, and the commission noted a similar one occurred during the AIDS public health crisis. It should address “the hazards of substance use, the danger of opioids, and stigma.”

– Opioid prescribing: The Department of Health and Human Services should develop a “national curriculum and standard of care” on prescribing prescription painkillers. It should supplement previous guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Improve prescription drug monitoring programs. The Department of Justice should fund and create a hub to share data on prescribing and dispensing.

— Fentanyl: The commission wants to enhance sentencing for trafficking of this potent synthetic opioid.

— Drug courts: The Department of Justice should establish federal drug courts in all 93 federal judicial districts. Those with an addiction who violate their probation by using a substance should go into drug court and not prison.

— Treatment: Barriers to medication-assisted treatment — and other types of treatment — should be lifted.