It’s a new day in Washington for drug policy — at least on paper. This week President Biden’s newly minted team at the White House dropped its agenda for the Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP), which expands the portfolio of the office after the Trump administration rearranged and condensed its focus.
Under the Trump Administration, the office’s research arm was downsized and officials took two years to drop a report that was formerly an annual priority for the federal government. This is in blatant contrast to the opioid crisis being a “top priority” for the administration.
President Biden is signaling it’s a new day in Washington and the nation when it comes to tackling the opioid epidemic.
While the Trump administration’s National Drug Control strategy consisted of “prevention, treatment and recovery, and availability,” Biden and his team are expanding it from three to five categories: the workforce, racial equity, prevention, harm reduction, and treatment.
Reforming these issues won’t be easy, as noted by Acting Director of the ONDCP, Regina LaBelle.
“The four crises identified by the Biden-Harris Administration, coupled with the mounting rates of overdose deaths and untreated addiction are significant challenges,” LaBelle said in a statement responding to the ONDCP appointees and agenda.
The new team is eager to tackle these issues to try and reverse the deadly tide of overdoses that have overwhelmed urban, suburban and rural communities alike.
“I’m honored to be working to implement President Biden’s agenda, which will focus on saving lives by prioritizing public health approaches to substance use disorder, while finding ways to confront historic racial inequities in drug policy,” ONDCP Chief of Staff, Mario Moreno, said in the White House’s ONDCP statement.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s ONDCP is already receiving praise for its agenda. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is supportive, in part because they’ve been advocating for some of the same policy reforms.
“We are encouraged by this announcement by the Biden Administration and to see that the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, for once, has an agenda that seems to be more focused on public health and curbing overdose crisis—which has been exacerbated by the pandemic—than failed interdiction efforts,” Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the DPA, said in a statement.
DPA is also urging the Biden-Harris Administration and the ONDCP to “undo the harms of failed drug policies by moving away from criminalization of people who use drugs altogether.”