|© Greg Nash|
The news site reports that Trump is expected to propose massive budget cuts this year to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) as it struggles to function without a director or chief of staff, who was fired in December.
"It’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward,” a former Trump administration staffer told Politico.
The agency's acting director, Rich Baum, has not been invited to Conway's opioid cabinet meetings despite serving in the office for decades, Politico reports, and instead two political appointees without any relevant experience attend on his behalf.
One political appointee in the office is Andrew Giuliani, the 32-year-old son of former New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani (R), who the White House told Politico has no background in drug policy.
Republicans in Congress who represent states hit hardest by the opioid crisis say they are unsure as to what Conway's actual role is at the ONDCP.
“I haven’t talked to Kellyanne at all and I’m from the worst state for this,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R-W.V.). “I’m uncertain of her role.”
“If I want technical advice, I’m going to work with Baum,” added Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.). “If I want to get a message to the president, Kellyanne is somebody that I know I can talk to.”
Opioid deaths surged in 2016, the worst year so far of the abuse epidemic. Deaths from drug overdoses related to opiates increased nearly 28 percent, from roughly 33,000 in 2015 to more than 42,200 in 2016.
Amid skyrocketing numbers, former ONDCP officials say the drug policy office is not taking a leading role in addressing the crisis.
“I don’t know what the agency is doing. I really don’t,” said Regina LaBell, the ONDCP's chief of staff under President Obama said.
“They aren’t at the level of visibility you’d think they’d be at by now.”
Oh good, our drug policy is being created by political appointees. Shit.