By KATHY GRANFORD-ANDERSON, APMEDIA STAFF ReporterIn the wake of the opioid crisis, the administration has tried to shift focus to a more benign issue: reducing drug addiction.
The White House has said the government will spend $5.5 billion over the next decade to help reduce opioid overdose deaths.
But while the administration’s messaging has shifted, its policies have not.
The administration has been unwilling to address the problem of prescription opioids and its long-term consequences.
It has not made a concerted effort to reduce the epidemic in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, even though the drug has been linked to more than 400 overdose deaths and is increasingly common in the United States.
Instead, the Trump White House seems intent on making sure that the opioid epidemic stays the same.
In a speech on Monday, President Donald Trump touted a plan that he says will lead to a 40 percent decrease in deaths from opioid-related illnesses by 2020.
The president has made no effort to identify the specific causes of the crisis, and he has declined to take any action to address those underlying causes.
In recent weeks, he has been less specific about his plans.
In an interview with the New York Times, he said, “We don’t know the root cause, but we have to make sure that it’s addressed.”
Trump has also declined to call the opioid issue a public health emergency.
In his speech, he called it “one of the most deadly diseases.”
He has said he will announce a plan within days, but has also repeatedly dismissed the idea of a national crisis.
He also has said there is no national strategy to combat the epidemic.
“It’s not a crisis that can be managed.
We’re not in a crisis mode,” he said in the Times interview.
“We have to be more proactive and more aggressive than ever.”
But in recent weeks the White House appears to have begun to focus more on the problem.
In the wake in early January of a New York City doctor’s prescription for fentanyl, which is commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain, the White Nationalist Council for Drug Policy released a statement calling the prescription a “massive public health crisis.”
In an interview Monday with ABC News, former Attorney General Eric Holder said Trump is “laying the foundation for a new, robust national drug policy,” and the president “has put us on the right track.”
“When it comes to addiction, the federal government needs to be a leader, not just a bystander,” Holder said.
“It is the role of the states to take care of the rest.”
But many people still don’t believe that.
In Washington, the former Drug Enforcement Administration chief and former deputy attorney general, Tom Perez, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he does not believe the administration is serious about addressing the opioid problem.
“I don’t think there is any meaningful national effort to address it,” Perez said.
“There are too many variables that contribute to this,” Perez added.
“The problem is not that we don’t have a crisis, it’s that the federal agencies and the states are not doing a good job of doing a real job of addressing it.”
Perez is a member of the Democratic caucus in the Senate, which has passed a bill that would create a national commission to tackle the opioid threat.
But he says that the president and Congress are not looking hard enough.
“What is the federal role in addressing the problem?
It’s the states and the cities,” Perez told ABC News.
“What are the state and local governments doing?
What are the states doing?
The states are doing so much, but it’s not enough.
The federal government is not going to be the one to do the job.”