Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) director James Carroll followed President Donald Trump's address to the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Wednesday by sounding themes that he acknowledged had an odd ring coming from the fiscal conservative who serves as the national drug czar.
Speaking on the nation's comprehensive anti-drug investment, Carroll said, “$34.6 billion sounds like a lot. It's not enough. We need to push harder and work more.”
Carroll's remarks reflected a broad view of both the nation's drug crisis and the responses that it requires. “We have to remember that at its core what we're facing is an addiction crisis, and that's what we have to treat,” he said to attendees of the opioid-focused meeting.
And while Carroll spoke proudly of the law enforcement partnerships that he said in recent years have dismantled 3,000 trafficking organizations across the country under the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) initiative, he also highlighted targeted investment in grassroots anti-drug coalitions under the Drug-Free Communities Support Program.
With past-month drug use declining in many of these funded communities, “We can show the mileage we can get out of a relatively small investment,” Carroll said. More than 700 coalitions shared a total of $90 million in Drug-Free Communities support last year.
Carroll revealed that he has a family member who has been in recovery for less than two years, and he said he has made it a mission of his within the agency to make sure there are human names attached to the numbers in the data that government deals in daily.
Law enforcement shift
Carroll touted the reach of the HIDTA initiative to include all 50 states, with the addition of Alaska last year. He credited the HIDTA covering the Baltimore-Washington area for establishing a real-time data system that identifies clusters of overdoses and represents a working partnership between public health and public safety.
At the same time, he praised many law enforcement agencies across the country for redefining their first response to addiction in their communities. “The first response is to put their arm around [the addict] to say, 'We're going in a different direction,'” he said.
Shifts have occurred at ONDCP as well, said Carroll, marked by developments such as the first hiring of a chief medical officer for an agency once associated nearly exclusively with an interdiction response to drug problems.