Donald Trump picks New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead fight against US opioid epidemic

Northeastern state has seen an increase in the number of drug overdose deaths

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 30 March 2017 01:14 BST
President Trump has tasked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with tackling ways to combat the US' opioid epidemic
President Trump has tasked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with tackling ways to combat the US' opioid epidemic (Drew Angerer/Getty)

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is set to lead Donald Trump's efforts to combat an opioid addiction epidemic sweeping America.

Mr Trump called Mr Christie a “very effective guy” at a White House meeting to address issues in drug law enforcement and addiction prevention.

Mr Christie’s state has been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic, experiencing a 16.4 per cent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2014 and 2015.

CNN reports that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 91 Americans die everyday from opioid addiction “and for every death, more than 30 others are admitted to the emergency room".

The meeting was also attended by several Cabinet officials including Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin, and the Acting Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Chuck Rosenberg.

Mr Trump’s proposed federal budget includes an increase of $500 million over 2016 spending levels on prevention and drug treatment efforts in communities.

However, one of the concessions the White House was thinking of making to dissenting Republicans on the party’s replacement to Obamacare was to strip the plan of the “essential health benefits” clause.

The clause required insurance companies to cover substance abuse counselling, among other items.

In Mr Christie’s state of New Jersey, insurance companies operating within the state are required to cover substance abuse treatment.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stressed a bipartisan solution to the opioid addiction during his press briefing: “Stopping this epidemic is an issue that every American regardless of your political background can and must get behind.”

Mr Spicer said Mr Trump’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic are of the “highest priority” for the administration.

The meeting came on the heels of news about Kraig Moss, who followed Mr Trump on the campaign trail, playing his guitar and singing country songs in support of the candidate along the way.

Mr Moss’ son Rob, 24, died three years ago of drug overdose and after Mr Trump’s support of the Republican healthcare plan that would have stripped substance abuse counselling from many insurance plans, Mr Moss told CNN he felt “betrayed".

The Republican healthcare plan was pulled from a vote in Congress because of a lack of support from within the Republican party.

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