March 29, 2017

Trump taps 'SWAT team' of business execs to tackle opioid crisis

Daily Briefing

The White House on Monday announced it would assemble a 'SWAT team' of top business leaders to tackle national problems—including the opioid misuse epidemic and challenges at the VA health system.

About the 'SWAT team'

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son in law and senior adviser to the Trump administration, will run the Office of American Innovation. The office will be staffed by former business executives and is "viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants," according to the Washington Post.

 Kushner said he is positioning the office as "an offensive team" that can attract top talent from both inside and outside the government and facilitate interactions between the academic, business, and philanthropic communities. "The government should be run like a great American company," Kushner said, adding, "Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are [U.S.] citizens."

According to the Post, the office already has held sessions with more than 100 leaders and government officials. The office has a particular focus on data and technology, and reportedly is working with technology leaders including:

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook;
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates;
  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; and
  • Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Health care will be a key focus

Health care issues are primed to be a key focus of the office. According to the Post, reimagining Veterans Affairs' (VA) health system will be one of the office's first focus areas.

Further, the Trump reportedly will tap New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to lead the office's team on drug misuse, which also will include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis, HHS Secretary Tom Price, VA Secretary David Shulkin, and up to five other individuals who are not federal employees, Politico's "Pulse" reports.

According to "Pulse," federal agencies associated with the team will:

  • Evaluate federal programs and the U.S. health system to identify whether there are regulatory barriers to opioid-related substance use disorder treatment, as well as ineffective efforts to address the opioid misuse epidemic;
  • Identify best practices for opioid-related substance use disorder prevention and recovery;
  • Recommend changes to criminal law and other processes related to opioid misuse; and
  • Review availability and funding of opioid-related substance use disorder treatment.

The team is expected to review the agencies' findings and release preliminary recommendations within 90 days, which would be followed up by a full report later this year, "Pulse" reports.

Some drug policy experts have praised the Trump administration for focusing on the opioid misuse epidemic, but question whether the team's work would overlap with federal efforts already underway. For instance, one expert told Politico that the U.S. Surgeon General last year issued a review similar to the report the team is expected to release (Parker/Rucker, Washington Post, 3/26; Bush, CBS Philly, 3/27; Diamond, "Pulse," Politico, 3/28).

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