By Pat Anson, Editor
Less than three weeks before its final report is due, President Trump’s opioid commission is getting a new member -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Bondi is a longtime supporter of the president, served as a member of his transition team, and was once rumored to be the next head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. There was speculation back in March that Bondi would be named to the opioid commission, but it was not until last week that the White House confirmed it was President Trump's "intent to appoint" Bondi to the panel, which currently has five members.
Curiously, Bondi’s office blamed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chair of the opioid commission, for the six month delay in getting her on board. Both Bondi and Christie are lame ducks serving out their final months in elected office.
“The President always intended for the Attorney General to be on the Commission – however, Governor Christie choose (sic) to begin the Commission with only himself and four others,” Whitney Ray, Bondi’s spokesman, said in an email.
“The announcement (of Bondi's appointment) is protocol before the Executive Order is signed next week. The Attorney General will continue to work with President Trump, General Kelly, Kellyanne Conway and other leaders to combat the national opioid epidemic.“
Bondi's spokesman also reportedly said that the October 1 deadline for the commission to release its final report would be extended. No such announcement has been made and the White House website still doesn’t list Bondi as a commission member.
The Trump administration has also yet to issue an official declaration that the opioid crisis is a national emergency – something the President said he would do over a month ago.
"The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump said on August 10.
Bondi played a prominent in shutting down Florida’s pill mills several years ago, but critics say she has been slow to acknowledge that the opioid crisis has shifted away from prescription painkillers to heroin and illicit fentanyl.
“The problem is Bondi isn't doing enough about the heroin epidemic,” the Miami Sun Sentinel said in an editorial. “Considering that Bondi was once touted as a potential Trump drug czar — and infamously failed to investigate Trump University after receiving a major donation from Trump — it's no surprise that she was named to the commission. But she's still living off her reputation from the pill mill crack down.
“In fact, if you Google Bondi and heroin, by far the most you'll read about is when she slammed a drug dealer for stamping Trump's name on a batch of heroin. You won't find any solutions to our crisis.”
In a recent interview with WMBB-TV, Bondi warned that drug dealers were putting heroin and illicit fentanyl into counterfeit medications.
"It's a national epidemic and it truly affects everyone, and parents need to really warn their kids, their teens, adults need to know, never take a pill from someone you don't know, even if they say it is a Tylenol, an Advil or an aspirin. Don't take anything from someone who you don't know," said Bondi.
The initial focus of Trump's opioid commission has been on educating, preventing and treating opioid addiction. An interim report released by the commission in July recommends increased access to addiction treatment, mandatory education for prescribers on the risks and benefits of opioids, and increased efforts to detect and stop the flow of illicit fentanyl into the country.
There are no specific recommendations aimed at reducing access to prescription opioids, although they could be added to the commission’s final report.
In addition to Gov. Christie, commission members include Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Bertha Madras, PhD, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, and Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman. No pain patients, pain management experts or practicing physicians were appointed to the panel.