WASHINGTON, D.C.— Yesterday, Dr. Rahul Gupta attended a ceremonial swearing in at the White House. He is the first-ever physician to serve as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Earlier in the day, Dr. Gupta visited Mary’s Center, a community-based treatment center in Washington, D.C. to meet with providers and patients to hear about the center’s evidence-based treatment and harm reduction services, including Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) and naloxone, and discuss ways the Biden-Harris Administration is working to remove barriers to life-saving treatment for communities across the country.

Excerpts from Dr. Gupta’s remarks during the ceremony at the White House:

I’ve been a practicing primary care physician for more than 25 years – I’ve served in towns as small as 1,900 residents and cities as large as 25 million. I was the Health Commissioner for West Virginia under two governors, and I’ve seen firsthand the heartbreak of the overdose epidemic. I’ve learned that an overdose is a cry for help, and for far too many people, that cry goes unanswered.

I’ve witnessed the challenges that people, providers, and communities face in responding to addiction and overdoses. And at the same time, I’ve seen how public safety and public health leaders can work together to develop strategies that save lives…and how evidence and data are critical to developing and implementing effective policy.  And I commit to you that during my tenure, the Administration’s drug policies will continue to be based on the best evidence and data available to us.

We will continue the work underway to expand access to high-quality, evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery supports while also reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities. Our work will be centered on supporting the people affected by this epidemic – the victims and their families, and those who currently have a substance use disorder and need care.

My focus at the beginning will include four specific areas that align with the Administration’s drug policy priorities:

First: Making sure that naloxone is available at every overdose incident… I firmly believe that no one should die of an overdose simply because they didn’t have access to naloxone. But sadly, today, that is happening across the country and access to naloxone depends a great deal on your zip code. To help reduce these deadly disparities, yesterday, ONDCP announced a new model law for state policymakers to consider that would ensure all states have consistent policies on naloxone.

Next: Scaling up treatment so our capacity meets the needs of everyone seeking care. Too many people seeking care are not able to access it today, despite the progress we have made in the last decade. We need more providers who are ready to support people with substance use disorder on their path to recovery.

Third: Getting more timely, actionable data to guide our overdose response strategies. Our policies are based on evidence and data, but as we’ve seen with the COVID pandemic, the timeliness and accuracy of data are critical… I will work closely with our interagency partners to do everything we can to improve this so we can make informed policy decisions that will help us save lives.  

And finally: Cracking down on illicit finance… Drug trafficking organizations exploit the finance system to move illicit profits and support their operations. We must prioritize dismantling these financial resources in order to weaken their capabilities and reduce the supply of illicit drugs entering our country.

These elements of the Biden-Harris drug policy priorities are critical to reducing the number of overdose deaths as soon as possible while also strengthening our nation’s addiction infrastructure

As the first physician to lead this office, I know that we must build a better addiction infrastructure, centered on individuals, families, and bringing communities together…from public health to law enforcement to faith-based organizations and the private sector, so we can meet people where they are and save lives.

I said earlier that an overdose is a cry for help. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to make sure these cries are heard…and answered.

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