New appointees bring significant experience in drug policy and will help lead President Biden’s plan to prevent substance use, improve access to quality treatment and harm reduction services, and promote recovery supports.
Washington, D.C. — Today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced its first wave of President Biden’s appointees and outlined the Biden-Harris Administration’s policy priorities for the first 100 days.
Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Regina LaBelle, Chief of Staff Mario Moreno, and Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Anne Sokolov have already joined the office and additional appointees will join in coming weeks. The incoming team of political appointees selected by the Biden-Harris Administration reflects a commitment to advance policies rooted in science and evidence, as well as a commitment to reflect the diversity of America by hiring people in recovery from substance use disorders.
ONDCP has identified five key policy priorities to address substance use disorder in America:
- The Workforce: Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce.
- Racial Equity: Confronting racial equity issues related to drug policy.
- Prevention: Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts, related to both supply and demand reduction.
- Harm Reduction: Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts.
- Treatment: Expanding access to evidence-based treatment, including by lifting burdensome restrictions on medications for opioid use disorder.
“The four crises identified by the Biden-Harris Administration, coupled with mounting rates of overdose deaths and untreated addiction are significant challenges,” Acting Director LaBelle said. “I’m honored to serve in the Biden-Harris Administration with this incredible group so we can get to work to improve outcomes for the American public and support drug policies rooted in science and evidence, to build back better.”
“While our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also face the addiction and overdose epidemic that affects communities all over the country,” Moreno said. “I’m honored to be working to implement President Biden’s agenda, which will focus on saving lives by prioritizing public health approaches to substance use disorder, while finding ways to confront historic racial inequities in drug policy.”
Acting Director Regina LaBelle was sworn in by President Biden on the evening of Inauguration Day. LaBelle is regarded as an expert on drug policy, having served as a Distinguished Scholar and the Program Director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. In this role, she managed a project portfolio focused on the opioid epidemic, addiction policies, barriers to treatment for substance use disorders, public health approaches to drug policies and how law can promote access to treatment and support recovery. LaBelle also founded and directed the Master of Science in Addiction Policy and Practice at Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Acting Director LaBelle previously served as the Chief of Staff and senior policy advisor at ONDCP during the Obama Administration, where she oversaw the Agency’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic and other drug policy issues, including overseeing implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy. She has been appointed as Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy. Ms. LaBelle is also serving as Acting Director until a nominee for Director is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Prior to her work at the national level, LaBelle served as legal counsel to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels where she provided legal and policy advice to the Mayor on high-profile city initiatives. From 1998 to 2005, LaBelle was an adjunct professor of policy and ethics at the Seattle University Institute for Policy Studies. She received her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and her BA from Boston College. LaBelle is an active member of the Washington State Bar.
Chief of Staff Mario Moreno has a decade of experience working in communications, research, and advocacy related to drug policy and human rights. Most recently, he was the Vice President for Communications at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for the promotion of human rights, good governance, and rule of law in Latin America. He previously served as the Press Secretary at ONDCP from 2015 to 2017, where he helped implement press plans to promote public health approaches to substance use disorder. He has worked on research and advocacy projects related to fentanyl trafficking and organized crime in Mexico, the protection of social leaders in Colombia, and broader human rights issues in Latin America. Mr. Moreno is a first-generation immigrant and has degrees from Duke University and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
Associate Director of Legislative Affairs Anne Sokolov joins the Agency with over a decade of experience in the House of Representatives, most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Congressman Max Rose. Prior to working for Congressman Rose, Anne spent eight years working for Congressman Tim Ryan, including as his Legislative Director, overseeing the Congressman’s role as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. In this role, she served as the primary legislative staffer for the Congressman’s work as Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. Anne also worked in a legislative role for Congressman Charlie Wilson. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, she is a graduate of George Washington University.
In the coming weeks, ONDCP will welcome Ariel Britt, Tom Hill, and Robert Kent to the team.
Associate Director of Outreach Ariel “Air” Britt has spent much of her career focused on intervention and recovery support services, strategic planning, facilitation, creative design, and program development. She is also the creator of the award-winning podcast, Beauty in the Grit. In 2015, Ariel had the privilege of sharing her personal experience as a person in recovery at the White House during the Obama Administration. She is an exceptional speaker with a passion for community and service. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan.
Senior Policy Analyst Tom Hill is a gay man in long-term recovery from addiction and has been a part of the recovery advocacy movement since 1998. Tom’s commitment to helping individuals, families, and communities get better has been demonstrated through his efforts to promote recovery-oriented systems of care that include a full range of prevention, treatment, peer recovery, and harm reduction services. Tom most recently served as the Senior Advisor on Addiction and Recovery at the National Council for Behavioral Health, following his former position as Vice President for Practice Improvement. Before joining the National Council, Tom served as the Senior Advisor on Addiction and Recovery to the SAMHSA Administrator and Acting Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment during the Obama Administration. Prior to his Federal service, Tom served as a Senior Associate at Altarum Institute and Director of Programs at Faces & Voices of Recovery.
General Counsel Robert Kent most recently served as the Vice President of Advocacy and General Counsel for the American Association of Orthodontists, a national healthcare organization. Prior to that he served as the General Counsel for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). In this role, Robert provided overall legal support, policy guidance, and direction to the OASAS Executive Office and all divisions of the agency. Robert led the OASAS efforts to implement New York State’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force recommendations, including the Combat Addiction/Heroin Campaign, the Federal Opioid Targeted Grant program, and Medicaid Redesign Team initiatives including implementation of historic legislation to increase access to treatment, including harm reduction services. Robert has co-authored articles on patient confidentiality and sober homes and has presented nationally and throughout New York State on the addiction system of care.
LaBelle, Moreno, Sokolov, Britt, Hill, and Kent join the Biden-Harris Administration at a time when the country is facing unprecedented levels of overdose deaths*. They will immediately get to work implementing President Biden’s robust agenda to address substance use disorder, end the overdose crisis, and save lives.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts (June 2019-June 2020).” January 3, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm