Senate Dems press Trump admin on opioid response

Senate Dems press Trump admin on opioid response
© Greg Nash

Two top Senate Democrats are pressing the Trump administration on whether it has adequately responded to the opioid crisis.

In a letter sent Monday, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHow a progressive populist appears to have toppled Engel Battle brewing on coronavirus relief oversight Progressive Mondaire Jones wins NY primary to replace Nita Lowey MORE (D-Mass.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayWill Congress provide relief to the ailing childcare sector? How to save child care? The rural electrification of America provides an answer Long waits for test results spark new COVID-19 fears MORE (D-Wash.) said they are concerned the administration has not implemented recommendations from an official White House advisory commission.

The administration in late October declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Then, in November, the White House commission gave specific recommendations to the administration so it could address the opioid epidemic.

Murray and Warren said there’s little evidence the White House has listened.

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

The letter noted that in recent months the administration has proposed slashing the budget of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy by $340 million; has nominated a director for that office 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.

Warren and Murray have previously expressed concern over an apparent lack of significant administration action regarding the opioid crisis.

In February, they asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate all the actions the administration has taken to combat the epidemic since declaring it a public health emergency.

For years, the federal government has grappled with how to combat the skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin — rates that increased 28 percent from 2015 to 2016.

“You declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on October 26, 2017, but there has been little evidence that your Administration has taken advantage of the supplemental executive branch authorities and resources provided by this designation,” Murray and Warren wrote.