On April 21st, the White House released its National Drug Control Strategy outlining goals and objectives for the United States to reduce the demand for and availability of illicit drugs.
In the document, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) emphasizes a “whole-of-government approach,” a part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda, to combat the current overdose epidemic embroiling the country. According to the Maryland Department of Health, in 2021, unintentional opioid overdose-related deaths in Maryland through the 3rd quarter had already exceeded all such deaths in recorded history. The same holds for cocaine- and methamphetamine-related deaths.
The National Association of Counties summarized the Strategy’s policy goals for curbing overdose in a blog post:
- Expanding high-impact harm reduction interventions such as naloxone, drug test strips and syringe services programs. The Strategy directs federal agencies to integrate harm reduction into the U.S. system of care to save lives and increase access to treatment. It also calls for collaboration on harm reduction between public health and public safety officials, and changes in state laws and policies to support the expansion of harm reduction efforts across the country.
- Ensuring those at highest risk of an overdose can access evidence-based treatment that has shown to reduce overdose risk and mortality. The Strategy calls on federal agencies to improve treatment quality to those that are at-risk of an overdose while at the same time strengthen the treatment workforce and infrastructure.
- Improving data systems and research that guide drug policy development to deploy public health interventions better. The Strategy directs relevant agencies to strengthen existing data systems, establish new data systems, and enhance the usefulness of drug data for practitioners, researchers and policymakers.
Moreover, in its Strategy, the White House emphasizes collaboration with local governments, particularly health departments and criminal justice systems. President Biden discussed the aims of the Strategy in a press release:
“This Strategy goes after two big drivers of the opioid epidemic: untreated addiction and drug trafficking,” said President Biden. “It’s time we treat addiction like any other disease. And at the same time, we are disrupting drug traffickers’ financial networks, supply chains, and delivery routes, including on the internet.
Director of the ONDCP, Dr. Rahul Gupta, noted how the Strategy would curb overdose numbers:
“President Biden’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy delivers on his Unity Agenda call to action to beat the overdose epidemic,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). “It focuses on actions we must take to reduce overdoses right now. Those include expanding access to high impact harm reduction tools like naloxone, quickly connecting more people to treatment, disrupting transnational criminal organizations’ financial networks and supply chains, and making better use of data to guide drug policy and save lives. This Strategy signals a new era of drug policy centered on individuals and communities.”
Counties have played a central role in preventing overdose deaths across Maryland. MACo, on behalf of Maryland’s counties, has advocated for additional local dollars from national opioid-related lawsuits and supported legislation codifying overdose prevention best practices. Likewise, the White House’s National Drug Control Strategy suggests additional federal support for policies supported by MACo and increased federal and local government collaboration opportunities to reverse the alarming upward trend of overdose deaths across the nation.