WASHINGTON — Despite President Trump’s unveiling of a three-prong strategy to combat opioid addiction and his claims that his administration is “involved more than any administration, by far” in efforts to end the nationwide opioid epidemic, Montgomery County officials and a member of President Trump’s own opioid commission remain unconvinced that an executive branch led by a President who dismisses the efficacy of his own presidential commission while calling for the death penalty for drug dealers is truly committed to fighting opioid abuse.
The new plan comes nearly three weeks after the White House held an opioid summit featuring cabinet secretaries and officials from various executive branch agencies who highlighted their accomplishments over the past year and previewed future plans for an audience of addiction treatment professionals, law enforcement, and ordinary Americans who have been affected by the epidemic or lost loved ones to it.
“The administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong,” Trump said while speaking toward the end of a White House’s opioid summit, which featured cabinet secretaries and officials from various executive branch agencies who highlighted their accomplishments over the past year and previewed future plans for an audience of addiction treatment professionals, law enforcement, and ordinary Americans who have been affected by the epidemic or lost loved ones to it.
The March 1 event was emceed by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and one of the few senior advisors who has been with him since he became President in January of last year. Trump selected Conway, a veteran GOP pollster, political consultant and television pundit, to be the White House’s “opioid czar” in November despite her lack of qualifications or experience in medicine, public health or any other relevant field.
Nevertheless, Conway boasted that the administration has made “great progress” against opioids thanks to the work of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Trump’s decision last year to order then-Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Don Wright to declare the crisis a Public Health Emergency. But Trump himself seemed to dismiss the idea that implementing the recommendations of his own commission would be effective in reducing the opioid scourge’s effects on the nation.
“If you want to be weak and you want to talk about just blue-ribbon committees, that’s not the answer,” said Trump, who then suggested that a solution could be found in harsher punishments – not prevention or treatment.