Gov. Chris Christie’s focus on fighting opioid abuse in his final year as governor has largely been spared from political sniping. That’s appropriate for such a serious issue all state residents want addressed.
Still, when President Donald Trump named his former rival turned supporter to lead the new national Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, we thought a Trump-Christie target might be irresistible to political foes. Happily, that’s hardly been the case.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski called the timing of the appointment “an obvious and transparent ploy” to divert attention from the Bridgegate sentencing the same day of two Christie allies. That’s OK, especially since he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, and maybe the precise timing wasn’t a coincidence. But clearly the commission is a major effort that assigns qualified people to a national problem of such urgency that early action by the new administration is welcome.
Another principal on the commission, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, was attacked by that state’s Democratic Party for joining “a show” commission. That drew rebukes even from party sympathizers, who noted Baker’s leading role in fighting addiction in the state, which last year became the first in the nation to mandate monitoring and training for opioid prescribers.
Another prominent commission member, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, has fought rampant over-prescription of pain pills, a factor in creating the addiction epidemic.
The national panel’s mission will include assessing the availability of opioid addiction treatment, assessing the prescription drug monitoring programs of each state, and determining the best practices for preventing drug abuse.
Even before Christie focused on opioids this year, we supported his initiatives to increase access to treatment. A plan we liked last year, for example, this week came to fruition when a former prison reopened as a 700-bed facility to provide inmates with mental-health and addiction treatment.
Yes, Christie didn’t need to be so prominent in the first round of advertisements marketing the state’s resources to counter substance abuse. When the latest ads came out this week, there was less Christie — but he was still in them. He is, after all, a politician.
The need for the state efforts and national commission are clear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are 91 U.S. opioid deaths a day. Bipartisan support during a war is warranted, including this one against addiction to pain killers and heroin.