President Donald Trump filled out his White House commission tasked with fighting opioid abuse on Wednesday, a White House official told CNN, officially tapping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to lead the bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Democrats Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, will also serve as members of the group.
Bertha K. Madras, a former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will also work on the commission.
Opioid abuse has reached near epidemic levels in the United States and Trump pledged to combat the issue during the 2016 campaign. A study from the Center for Disease Control found that 25% of all drug overdose deaths were related to heroin in 2015. That number was just 6% in 1999.
Weeks before Election Day, Trump headlined a roundtable discussion in New Hampshire with opioid stakeholders where he pledged to take action on the issue.
“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” he said. “I would dramatically expand access to treatment slots.”
But, so far, opioid activists have been disappointed with Trump’s response to the issue.
Though Trump rolled out this commission over a month ago, activists complained that it took so long to actually give it teeth. And those same activists grew more angry when CNN and others reported earlier this month that the White House planned to virtually eliminate the the Office of National Drug Control Policy by cutting its budget by 94%.
“If he had really asked and listened to anybody close to the issue, they would tell him that he has done everything wrong so far,” said Dean Lemrire, a recovery advocate in New Hampshire who is in treatment himself. “I am bummed out. I am bummed out that he is threatening the health care that the people who are hardest hit.”