The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis, Chaired by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) met for the first time on Friday, June 16.  The Commission was established to develop interim recommendations to the President with final recommendations by October 1, 2017.  Other members of the Commission include Governor Charlie Baker (R-MA), Governor Ray Cooper (D-NC), former-Congressman Patrick Kennedy (R-RI), Bertha Madras, Harvard Medical School.  Members also include the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense and Attorney General.

The objectives include: 1) identify and describe the existing federal funding used to combat drug addiction and the opioid crisis;  2) assess the availability and accessibility of drug addiction treatment services and overdose reversal throughout the country and identify areas that are underserved; 3) identify and report on best practices for addiction prevention, including healthcare provider education and evaluation of prescription practices, collaboration between state and federal officials, and the use and effectiveness of state prescription drug monitoring programs; 4) review the literature evaluating the effectiveness of educational messages for youth and adults with respect to prescription and illicit opioids; 5) identify and evaluate existing federal programs to prevent and treat drug addiction for their scope and effectiveness, and make recommendations for improving these programs; and 6) make recommendations to the President for improving the federal response to drug addiction and the opioid crisis.

The commission heard from a series of witnesses on Friday.  Many emphasized what we now know about successful treatment and the access to greater treatment.  Several witnesses also mentioned the importance of the Medicaid programs, mental health and substance use coverage parity and the essential benefits package in the current law.