The Trump administration’s commission on the opioid crisis is a sham that will not produce meaningful public health outcomes, according to a member of the Trump administration’s sham commission on the opioid crisis.
“Everyone is willing to tolerate the intolerable—and not do anything about it,” former Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy, a member of the six-person commission, told CNN in a story published Tuesday. “I’m as cynical as I’ve ever been about this stuff...I have to be true to the way I feel: This is essentially a sham.”
Kennedy is confirming what public health advocates have been saying since the start of this administration: a president that campaigned on dismantling the Affordable Care Act and escalating the drug war is not going to solve any kind of drug crisis.
Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency last October, but allocated just $57,000 in additional funding, leaving the issue in essentially the same place as before. “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,” Kennedy said.
This is correct. Here are some of the things that actually would help to reduce the number of people getting sick, dying, or going to jail because they use drugs: legalizing drugs and destigmatizing drug use; establishing supervised injection sites and syringe exchanges in cities and rural areas; universal healthcare; robust investment in affordable housing and food assistance programs; methadone maintenance treatment; prescription heroin; co-locating health, housing, and other service providers at harm reduction centers and vice versa.
Here is what the Trump administration has done: destabilize health insurance markets through a series of policies meant to undermine the current healthcare law; named a reefer madness ideologue to head the top law enforcement agency in the country; put a legislative target on the social safety net; and told people to just say “no” to drugs.
Meanwhile, an average 151 people die every day from opioid overdoses and countless others suffer some other related and largely preventable catastrophe related to the epidemic. These are not accidents; they are a consequence of our broken drug laws, extreme inequality, and a disappearing safety net.
“We really have an opportunity to highlight how we should be treating people who use drugs, or it could go very badly,” Lindsay LaSalle, a senior staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance, told me back when Trump declared the public health emergency. “Criminalization and prohibition are why we are in this mess to begin with.”
Get ready for even more mess.