WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report on addressing the national opioid crisis Wednesday, noting details about increasing the number of drug courts as well as other treatment and prevention efforts.
The report was released six days after Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, directing federal agencies to address addiction, though not providing additional funding; the Public Health Emergency Fund is reported to only have $57,000.
The six-member commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, issued the 56 recommendations to address the opioid epidemic, including one asking the U.S. Department of Justice to establish drug courts in all 93 federal judicial districts
The commission also recommended allowing state, local and tribal governments to apply for grants to establish such courts.
“Drug courts have traditionally been a more effective response for non-violent, low-level offenders with SUDs (substance use disorders), rather than lengthy prison sentences,” the report said.
“However, 44% of U.S. counties in 2014 did not have a drug court for adults. The principal factors limiting drug court expansion are insufficient funding, treatment, and supervision resources, not a lack of judicial interest.”
The commission also recommended all law enforcement in the United States be supplied with naloxone — medication used to treat those who have overdosed on opioids — as well as block grant funding to states for opioid-related practices, a multi-platform media campaign on the dangers of risky drug use, and for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to review policies that could encourage the prescribing of opioid medication.
Trump spoke favorably of a national campaign discouraging drug use during a speech last week at the White House.
Two pieces of legislation noted in the final report are the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act and the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act. Both bills were introduced by members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., introduced the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act in April, which would require states that receive federal grant funding for the opioid crisis to use databases to better identify the misuse of drugs. States would also be expected to share their data with other states.
“By widely implementing prescription drug monitoring programs, we can help prevent overprescribing and doctor shopping – two activities that fuel the drug crisis,” Jenkins said in a press release.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a co-sponsor of the Senate companion bill.
The second measure mentioned was the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act — or the Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act — which was passed by the Senate in August. The bill, introduced by Manchin and co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, would require the development of standards for hospital and medical professionals regarding a patient’s history.
The bill is named after Jessica Grubb, a Charleston native who died in March 2016 after she was prescribed oxycodone. The doctor treating Grubb was unaware of her history of drug addiction.
Manchin said he was glad to see the commission’s multiple recommendations.
“I will continue to work closely with President Trump and Governor Christie to promote common sense solutions to address the opioid epidemic,” he said in a statement.
Capito also applauded the commission’s report, noting her pleasure seeing the recommendation of passing the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act.
“West Virginia has taken many important steps to address the opioid epidemic and make significant progress to curb the spread of drug abuse,” she said in a press release. “The final report released today by the president’s opioid commission is another step to aid in this fight.”
The commission also noted the causes of the opioid epidemic, including pain patient advocacy, drug manufacturers, medical education and a lack of government oversight.
Trump told Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs last week he would declare a national emergency on drugs sometime this week.