Passed over for other Trump administration jobs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will head a project to combat opioid abuse. He has been discussing the details with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
President Trump is tapping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to chair a commission devoted to combatting opioid abuse, reports NJ.com. The news was first disclosed by the Washington Post. It’s unclear if the chairmanship will be part-time, how often it would pull Christie away from New Jersey, or if it would require him to step down as governor. Fighting opioid abuse is one focus of a a new White House office Trump is expected to unveil today, to be led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner and Christie, a fellow Livingston, N.J., native, have been working together informally for several weeks about opioid abuse.
Christie has long made battling drug addiction a key portion of his platform in New Jersey. He has vowed to devote much of his last year as governor to the issue. It was reportedly one topic he and Trump discussed when they had a much-publicized meatloaf lunch together at the White House last month. The chairmanship would finally give Christie a position in Trump’s administration –albeit it likely a small one — after months of speculation. Christie has said he turned down other job offers from Trump, saying none of them was worth leaving the governorship to take.
The State could allow pot growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational pot as medical pot if a change in federal law or enforcement occurs, which would cost the state $100 million annually in tax receipts.
Colorado is considering an unusual strategy to protect its nascent marijuana industry from a potential federal crackdown, at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax collections, reports the Associated Press. A bill pending in the legislature would allow pot growers and retailers to reclassify their recreational pot as medical pot if a change in federal law or enforcement occurs. It’s the boldest attempt yet by a U.S. marijuana state to avoid federal intervention. The bill would allow Colorado’s 500 licensed recreational pot growers to reclassify their weed immediately.
A switch would cost the state more than $100 million a year because Colorado taxes medical pot much more lightly than recreational weed — 2.9 percent versus 17.9 percent. The measure says licensed growers could immediately become medical licensees “based on a business need due to a change in local, state or federal law or enforcement policy.” The change wouldn’t take recreational marijuana off the books, but it wouldn’t entirely safeguard it either. What it could do is help growers protect their inventory in case federal authorities start seizing recreational pot. The provision is getting a lot of attention in the marijuana industry after comments from members of the Trump administration. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said there’s a “big difference” between medical and recreational pot.
The number of youths misusing psychotherapeutic drugs rises dramatically between the age groups of 12-17 and 18-25.
Addiction specialists are increasingly worried about the high school gateway to opioid abuse as they find themselves treating more addicts in their 20s who got started earlier in life, reports the USA Today Network-Tennessee. It can begin innocently enough. Two percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 misused a psychotherapeutic drug (a pain reliever, stimulant, tranquilizer and sedatives) in 2015, says the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That number rises dramatically to 5.1 percent for the group between 18 and 25. Some start using painkillers before they receive a diploma, setting the stage for a downward spiral in the years that followed.
For some, the introduction to pain pills — Tramadol, hydrocodone, oxycodone, among others — happens during formative high school years: through an oral surgery prescription or a well-meaning parent hoping to relieve some pain. It can happen in a high school locker room before a football game, to dull the pain. Or before a party, to loosen up. In Tennessee, there is some reason for optimism. State analysis indicates the number of youths in the state who used a painkiller fell from 9 percent to 5 percent between 2004 and 2014.
Democrats Cory Booker, Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to cancel former Attorney General Eric Holder’s move away from mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.
Three Democratic senators are urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to return to policies that urge prosecutors to pursue long mandatory-minimum prison sentences against low-level drug offenders, reports Politico. Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Dick Durbin (IL) and Patrick Leahy (VT) wrote Sessions pleading with him not to abandon the Obama administration’s “Smart on Crime” initiative that led to earlier releases for those convicted of drug dealing in the federal system. “Changes to current drug charging policies that lead to more mandatory minimum penalties in low-level, nonviolent drug cases will not increase public safety and will only increase taxpayer spending on our bloated federal prison system,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned about a possible shift in the Justice Department’s treatment of federal drug cases and the specter that mandatory minimum penalties may once again be used by the Justice Department on a routine basis as tools to prosecute low-level nonviolent drug offenses.”
The senators were reacting to a memo Sessions sent to federal prosecutors on March 8, urging a more intense focus on violent crime and signaling that the department plans to roll back some directives in which Attorney General Eric Holder instructed prosecutors to not always seek the most severe charges available. Booker, Durbin and Leahy took issue with the central premise behind Sessions’ recent moves: the notion that the U.S. is at the leading edge of a major surge in crime. “A rise in violent crime in some cities in no way supports a need to charge more mandatory minimums to deter nonviolent drug trafficking crimes nationwide,” the senators said.
Small fee added to each prescription would produce $1 billion for more treatment, advocates say. “We have to start thinking out of the box in terms of getting the necessary funding to combat this crisis,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).
With money tight and the opioid epidemic continuing, Connecticut’s U.S. senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, are proposing a new way to create as much as $1 billion for addiction treatment, the Hartford Courant reports. They want a fee of 1 cent per milligram of active opioid be added to prescriptions. The money would go to treatment. “We have to start thinking out of the box in terms of getting the necessary funding to combat this crisis,” Murphy said. “The amount of money states and the federal government are putting into opioid treatment now simply isn’t doing the job.”
“There are a lot of prescriptions out there, so this tiny fee, when you apply it to every pain medication, ultimately garners a billion a year,” Murphy estimates. The proposed bill, dubbed the LifeBOAT Act, comes at a time in which Connecticut, like other states, has seen a steady increase in the number of fatal overdoses, attributed largely to opioid abuse. The chief medical examiner showed that those deaths increased for a fifth year in a row. In 2016, heroin played a role in 504 deaths. The money collected if the bill passed would be distributed in the form of grants that would fund efforts including establishing new treatment facilities, expanding access to long-term, residential programs, and recruiting and training mental health providers who provide substance abuse treatment.
Vote kills a Labor Department rule that limited the industries for which states could mandate drug testing as a prerequisite for receiving unemployment benefits. President Trump is expected to sign the measure.
The Senate voted to repeal an Obama-era regulation restricting the scope of drug testing that states could require for recipients of unemployment benefits, Politico reports. The measure overturning a Labor Department rule, which limited the industries for which states could mandate drug testing as a prerequisite for receiving unemployment benefits, passed 51-48, on largely a party-line vote.
President Trump is expected to sign it into law, making it the eighth Obama administration regulation that the Republican Congress has successfully killed through the little-used Congressional Review Act. That two-decade-old law allows lawmakers to scrap recently finalized executive-branch regulations through a resolution of disapproval, which can be passed with simple majorities in the House and Senate. The move was opposed by civil rights groups and labor unions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the HealingNYC initiative would reduce the number of opioid deaths 35 percent during the next five years. The funding will support the distribution of 100,000 kits of naloxone, the drug-overdose-reversal drug, to treatment programs, city shelters, and pharmacies.
New York City will spend $38 million annually to combat an opioid epidemic that killed more than 1,000 New Yorkers last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the HealingNYC initiative would reduce the number of opioid deaths 35 percent during the next five years. The funding will support the distribution of 100,000 kits of naloxone, the drug-overdose-reversal drug, to treatment programs, city shelters and pharmacies. All 23,000 New York patrol officers will be equipped with the kits.
Officials said an estimated 1,300 New Yorkers died of a drug overdose in 2016, the highest total on record. About 1,075 of those overdoses involved an opioid. Almost 90 percent of the fatal opioid overdoses last year involved heroin or fentanyl—a drug 50 times more potent than heroin. Officials said 18 percent of the overdoses involved prescription painkillers. The mayor blamed the rise in opioids on the pharmaceutical industry, which, he said, “encouraged the overuse of addictive pain killers. PhRMA, a trade group representing companies in the pharmaceutical industry, said they are committed to fighting prescription drug abuse. The initiative will support education programs in schools and hospitals to raise awareness of the epidemic and encourage doctors to prescribe medication for shorter durations and lower doses. The city will aim to increase access to methadone and other medication to treat addiction in emergency departments and clinics throughout the city.
Chicago police expand their unique drug diversion program that began in early 2016. Until now, the program was limited to people who were caught selling small quantities of drugs — mostly to pay for their own drug habits. Friday, cops offered treatment to heroin buyers.
Chicago police officers posing as drug dealers caught dozens of heroin buyers in a reverse sting on Friday, after a separate roundup of a reputed gang leader and dozens of his crew members by the police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The operation targeting low-level buyers was different from most drug busts, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. These addicts were given the choice to go into treatment instead of jail. Forty-one of them took the police up on their offer. It was an expansion of the Chicago Police Department’s unique drug diversion program that began in early 2016. Until now, the program was limited to people who were caught selling small quantities of drugs — mostly to pay for their own drug habits.
The low-level buyers taken into custody Friday were looking to purchase “dime bags” of heroin for $10. Some rode the Blue Line L from the suburbs and walked to the open-air market looking to score their dope before going to work. Others walked from their homes in the neighborhood or drove up in vehicles. A van with an Uber logo even pulled into an alley on the block. Some of the buyers seemed confused they weren’t automatically going to jail or having their vehicles impounded. A woman suffering from withdrawals bummed a cigarette from a cop who warned her not to light up until she left the police facility. A down-and-out looking man instructed officers on how to start up his car: “You need to touch the ignition wires together,” he said
“Human traffickers are literally targeting and preying upon women, in particular who are drug addicted,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tells the Boston Herald. “With the opiate crisis, we’re seeing a rise in this kind of activity.”
The opiate scourge has created a sad wave of desperate addicts lured into ruthless sex trafficking rings even as a tough, new law has given cops a powerful tool to take dozens of internet-savvy pimps off the streets, the Boston Herald reports. The victims’ stories are harrowing. Some girls sold for sex are as young as 11 years old. They’re kept in hotel rooms for days on end, forced to make nightly quotas. Some are sold for sex by their own family members. The girls being trafficked come from cities and suburbs. If they aren’t already using drugs, many start using them later, as a means to cope with their nightmare ordeals.
Since a 2012 state anti- human trafficking law toughened penalties against pimps and sex buyers, and recognized girls being sex trafficked as victims rather than criminals, the Attorney General’s office has charged 34 people with sex trafficking, and seven of them were convicted. “Human traffickers are literally targeting and preying upon women, in particular who are drug addicted,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “With the opiate crisis, we’re seeing a rise in this kind of activity. It’s so sad because traffickers will literally line up outside clinics and try to lure women into this industry with promises of drugs. The Herald found that sex buyers’ demands are becoming sicker and an increasing number want unprotected sex. Doctors, lawyers, academics and businessmen are among those buying sex. They want anything from the “girlfriend” experience to fetish fantasies.
The plan being considered by House Republicans to replace Obamacare would eliminate an Affordable Care Act requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services in states that expanded it, allowing them to decide whether to include those benefits in Medicaid plans.
The House Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would strip away what advocates say is essential coverage for drug addiction treatment as the number of people dying from opiate overdoses is skyrocketing nationwide, the Washington Post reports. Beginning in 2020, the plan would eliminate an Affordable Care Act requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services in states that expanded it, allowing them to decide whether to include those benefits in Medicaid plans. The proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion under the act, which would affect many states bearing the brunt of the opiate crisis, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid under ACA.
“Taken as a whole, it is a major retreat from the effort to save lives in the opiate epidemic,” said Joshua Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins Medical School. Advocates and others stress that mental-health disorders sometimes fuel drug addiction, making both benefits essential to combating the opioid crisis. Nearly 1.3 million people get treatment for mental-health and substance abuse disorders under the Medicaid expansion, estimate health care economists Richard G. Frank of the Harvard Medical School and Sherry Glied of New York University. House Republicans confirmed the benefit cuts during a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Republicans argue that the change would give states additional flexibility in coverage decisions, and believe they would continue to provide addiction and mental-health coverage to Medicaid recipients if needed.