Behavioral healthcare stakeholders might have a reason to drop what they’re doing—right now—and get on the phone to anyone in Washington who will listen.
According to the New York Times, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) is likely to be named the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)—the drug czar. Personally, I was thinking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would have been the more experienced choice, not to mention he has a more recovery-oriented attitude, too.
Why you need to be concerned
Here is what Marino said last May at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, and please note the bold is my own emphasis on his word choice:
“Many addicts are ineffectively treated. Although one may leave treatment and be, quote, ‘cured,’ end quote, by some standards, more often than not one ends up behind bars or in another futile program because their first attempt failed. One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing nondealer, nonviolent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals. Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision. If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it.”
Are you concerned? In this hearing, Marino also said that there would be a significant cost associated with his hospital-slash-prison.
To the best of my knowledge and online research, Marino is not in recovery, as the former drug czar, Michael Botticelli, was. Marino is also one of the most conservative members of the Pennsylvania delegation and was an early supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign for president.
Marino is a former district attorney, county prosecutor and federal prosecutor, chosen under the George W. Bush administration. It seems clear that he will lean toward a criminal justice approach, rather than a treatment approach.
Also of concern is the bigger picture when Marino’s appointment is viewed alongside the appointment of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions is known for a “war on drugs” approach.