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Senator Hassan, Representatives Kuster & Pappas Urge President Biden to Restore Drug Czar to Cabinet-Level Position

Re-Elevating Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to the President’s Cabinet Would Strengthen U.S. Response to Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan and Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) joined Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and their colleagues in urging the President to restore the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to a Cabinet-level position. Elevating the post would enable ONDCP to more effectively coordinate drug control efforts across federal agencies and enhance the administration’s response the opioid epidemic that has devastated communities in New Hampshire and across the country. Congresswoman Kuster, co-chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, was a key lead on this.

“We were pleased that, in your State of the Union address last year, you identified ending the opioid epidemic as your top priority in the Unity Agenda,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to President Biden. “Since then, we have made great strides in the areas you discussed, including increasing funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery, and removing barriers to accessing medication for opioid use disorder. However, we have not yet broken the trend of rising overdose deaths, and patterns in overdose deaths are constantly evolving, as evidenced by the growing challenges related to xylazine.”

“As Members of Congress, we are doing our best to address this crisis, but we urge you to take every action within your authority to prevent further loss of life,” the lawmakers continued. “Reinstatement of the ONDCP Director to the Cabinet would be a meaningful step in improving interagency collaboration and the effectiveness of drug control programs across the federal government. It is time to restore the Director to a Cabinet position to address the drug crisis with the full force of this Administration and those that follow.”

Prior to 2009, the ONDCP Director’s position was Cabinet-level. As a Senator, President Biden supported the ONDCP Director’s serving at the Cabinet level, stating in 2001: “I have argued that Cabinet-level status is necessary to give the position visibility commensurate with the depth of our Nation’s drug problem, providing our drug czar the clout to stop interagency feuding, fight for budgetary resources, and decertify inadequate agency drug budgets.”

Senator Hassan recently led efforts to pass a new law that permits providers to prescribe medication-assisted treatment – which is considered the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder – as they would other controlled substances. To raise awareness about medication-assisted treatment, Senator Hassan is bringing Marie-Elizabeth Ramas, MD as her guest to the State of the Union.

To read the letter, click here.