Being able to overcome America’s devastating opioid crisis is a monumental task. One president alone surely cannot do it, but their influence and administrative power can certainly help move things in a positive direction. So is our newly elected commander-in-chief, Joe Biden, taking a big step forward to advocate for sobriety? According to some critics, that remains to be seen.
The Washington Post recently published an article grading the president’s response to America’s addiction crises. Their stance is that his team isn’t doing as much as they should, putting addiction more towards the back burner of his 2021 goals.
Now the piece wasn’t entirely critical. There was praise for a report that the White House released concerning its priorities for the U.S. drug policy; particularly around the progressive pushes for needle-exchange programs throughout the country. Ultimately though, as writer Robert Gebelhoff put it, “it’s a great start, but it’s just not enough.”
One of the criticisms concerns Biden’s original campaign promises and some backpedalling when it comes to funding. Before he was elected president, Biden vowed to allocate as much as$125 billion towards programs like the American Rescue Plan for substance abuse and mental health. Part of that was also supposed to go directly towards the opioid crisis; offering assistance for people in need of recovery.
According to the report that was released, though, the $125 billion now stands at $14 billion. While that is still a considerable amount of money, it pales in comparison to what Biden initially proposed. And there is genuine concern that, though high, that total won’t make much of a difference against the massive turmoil caused by the crisis.
The other big critique is that Biden has yet to fill the director role for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (an official “drug czar,” if you will). Many recovery advocates believe that should be an essential position in the Biden cabinet. Right now, it appears to have been de-prioritized, as his administration concentrates on building its COVID-19 response team.
Now, of course, Biden certainly entered the presidency with a lot on his plate. There is no doubt that tackling the COVID-19 pandemic should be a top priority. What Gebelhoff contends, though, is that addiction work should be right up there with it. In his opinion (and ours), this is a mounting crisis and one that Biden is uniquely qualified to tackle.
“The Trump administration gave much lip service to addressing overdoses; its failure to actually address them is evident in today’s death toll,” Gebelhoff concludes. “Biden, given his own family’s history with addiction, is the perfect person to finally change the federal government’s course. He should get on with it already.”