At Committee Hearing, Oversight Democrats Tout Biden-Harris Administration’s Efforts to Address Drug Addiction and Curb Overdoses

Jul 28, 2023
Press Release
Committee Democrats Support Reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Washington, D.C. (July 28, 2023)—Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, led Democrats in urging bipartisan support for the reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), an agency critical in the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to fight the drug addiction epidemic and curb overdose deaths.

 

“Democrats and Republicans should work together to address the underlying causes of addiction.  When we talk about the opioid crisis or the fentanyl crisis, we are really talking about many different social crises bearing down upon us, including the mental and emotional health crisis and, in communities and regions, an economic and opportunity crisis,” said Ranking Member Raskin in his opening statement.

 

The hearing included testimony from Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

 

In his testimony, Director Gupta emphasized the critical role of ONDCP in fighting the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States.

 

  • In response to a question from Ranking Member Raskin on ONDCP’s efforts to prevent overdoses and save lives, Director Gupta said:  “It is really important we meet people where they are today because of the crisis.  One of those things is to make sure that we have Naloxone or Narcan available to people when they are overdosing.  As a doctor, I have seen people coming to the emergency room, five times sometimes in the same day.  I do not judge them, but I do feel that saving that life was important to me.  [I want to] make sure that they have a chance at getting into treatment.”

 

  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton underscored the need for increased access to treatment for substance use disorders across the United States.  Director Gupta agreed and explained:  “It is critical.  We have less than 1 out of 10 people who need treatment today is getting treatment.  It is worse for communities that are marginalized, communities of color, and rural populations.  So it is important that when we look at telehealth, we look at being able to cover these medications.  There are three FDA approved medications.  That people get the help when and where they need it, and that’s exactly the work this Administration is trying to do--expand it to have the goal of universal access to treatment by 2025.” 

 

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez observed that, “ONDCP holds a unique position within the federal government, coordinating across nineteen federal agencies and overseeing $41 billion as part of a whole-of-government approach to address addiction and the overdose epidemic.”  She asked Director Gupta about ONDCP’s successes and he explained:  “On the treatment side, we’ve seen more naloxone get out there, 37% increase in prescribing while 12% reduction in price.  It will go over the counter in the upcoming days to weeks to months.  We've seen expansion of treatment, making sure telehealth provision happens.”

 

Committee Democrats praised the Biden-Harris Administration’s decisive action to address America’s overdose crisis with a robust National Drug Control Strategy.
 

  • Rep. Summer Lee praised the National Drug Control Strategy for acknowledging addiction as a health crisis:  “We need to continue the work started by the National Drug Control Strategy to act on this medical understanding and prioritize treatment for people struggling with substance abuse disorders, just as our society seeks to treat other forms of diseases.  For example, the Strategy aims to ‘make evidence-based treatment as accessible and available as primary-based care.’”

 

  • Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost emphasized the importance of a comprehensive federal response and robust funding to combat the addiction crisis, saying, “I think, the Chair and my colleagues on this Committee, on both sides of the aisle, can agree that the size of our commitment should match the size of the challenge.”

 

  • Rep. Kweisi Mfume expressed support for reauthorizing and fully funding ONDCP.  He also commended the Biden-Harris Administration’s approach to drug control policy, which treats drug addiction as a disease, noting that this approach “is evidence-based, it is common sense, and it is long, long overdue.”

 

Committee Democrats called for a bipartisan effort to improve the efficacy of federal programs, reduce addiction, and save lives by reauthorizing ONDCP.

  • Rep. Dan Goldman emphasized the overarching goal:  “We’re trying to stop the fentanyl from coming in. And there is no question, and there is bipartisan agreement—as we’ve been talking about throughout this hearing—that fentanyl and the opioid epidemic is devastating communities all around this country.  It does not differentiate between Republican districts and Democratic districts.”

 

  • Rep. Melanie Stansbury underscored that the fentanyl crisis hits every single community in the United States and said, “We can sit here and yell about the border and talk about all these issues, but if we’re not actually addressing the real issues that lead to the crisis, then our family members and our friends are going to continue to die.” 

 

  • Rep. Gerald E. Connolly asked Director Gupta about the consequences of failing to reauthorize ONDCP.  Director Gupta responded, “I think it would send the wrong message to the American people about the seriousness that this Congress takes when it comes to the killing and the death of 109,000 Americans each year.”  He continued, “It would weaken significantly the response of federal, local, and state law enforcement, as well as first responders and public health officials, to respond to this crisis.”

 

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Issues: 
118th Congress