White House to host ‘opioids summit’ for survivors of epidemic

March 1, 2018 GMT

First lady Melania Trump and a sweeping roster of Cabinet members will gather Thursday for a White House summit designed to highlight President Trump’s efforts to tackle the opioids crisis.

The meet-up will serve as the public debut of Mr. Trump’s new drug czar, Jim Carroll, who’s been named acting secretary of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

More than 200 people affected by the prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic will get the chance to ask questions and interact with a who’s who of attendees from the administration, a White House official said.

Last fall, Mr. Trump challenged Congress and his team to treat the deadly opioids crisis as a public health emergency.


Thursday’s guest list is designed to highlight the scope of the challenge, from treatment reform under Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to drug-enforcement efforts under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Sulkin, House and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will also be on hand, along with Seema Verma, who runs Medicaid and Medicare, and a long line of deputies and officials from agencies that handle the U.S. mail and customs and immigration enforcement.

Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway will moderate the discussion.

Opioid-related overdoses killed 42,000 people in 2016 alone.

Estimates suggest the problem only got worse in 2017, as synthetic fentanyl filters through illicit heroin market.

A top official from the Drug Enforcement Administration told a House panel vetting bills to address the crisis that heroin users are playing “Russian Roulette” when they use, given the prevalence of deadly synthetic opioids.

Mr. Trump’s recent budget request calls for $13 billion in new funding to tackle the crisis $3 billion this year and $10 billion in 2019.

However, Congress settled on a more limited price tag of $6 billion, to be split between the two years.

The White House plans to highlight changes it’s already made, from helping states waive certain rules that restrict addiction treatment to expanding the use of buprenorphine to wean people off opioids.

It will also point the the Justice Department’s efforts to crack down on drug traffickers and the Interdict Act, which provided new resources to border agents who root out illegally imported fentanyl.