Former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, one of six members appointed to a bipartisan commission in March by President Trump to address the opioid crisis, told CNN this week that the task force work was a “sham” and a “charade.”
Kennedy told the publication that Trump’s speech in October when he declared the opioid crisis was indeed a national public health emergency was great, but nothing substantial has been done since then to address the epidemic because neither the White House nor Congress has put any funding behind it.
"This and the administration's other efforts to address the epidemic are tantamount to reshuffling chairs on the Titanic," Kennedy told CNN. "The emergency declaration has accomplished little because there's no funding behind it. You can't expect to stem the tide of a public health crisis that is claiming over 64,000 lives per year without putting your money where your mouth is."
Indeed, despite the administration’s pledge to combat the opioid crisis, the White House wants to cut the budget for its drug policy office by 95% and has called for funding cuts to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy. And because Trump’s declaration that the crisis was a public health emergency was about to expire, the Department of Health and Human Services quickly renewed it on Friday for another 90 days.
CNN said it reached out to all members of the presidential commission about the progress made on the epidemic since it issued its report in November, but only Kennedy and Bertha K. Madras, a deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the George W. Bush administration, were willing to speak to the publication.
Kennedy had the harshest words, telling the publication that without funding to address the problem the work the commission did was a charade and “essentially a sham.” Madras told the publication that the commission never heard directly from Trump after it issued its final report. However, she said the work on the commission was a “positive experience.”
The commission’s final report outlined more than 50 recommendations but didn’t specify the amount of funding necessary to implement them.