Tag Archives: recovery

Office of National Drug Control Policy Needs New Drug Czar

The Trump Administration recently employed 24-year-old Taylor Weyeneth to be the deputy chief of staff (also known as the drug czar) of the Office of National Drug Control Policy or ONDCP. While many addiction advocates were hoping the Administration would be filled by an experienced professional, the appointment of Mr. Weyeneth proved to be profoundly flawed.

Before Mr. Weyeneth’s work for the Trump administration, there were only two jobs from which he gleaned experience the only position he’d held since graduating from college in 2016. One of these tasks was working on President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Aside from his young age, and lack of experience in the field of mental health or addiction, this young man’s lack of knowledge also spilled into the jobs he listed on his resume. Included in the resume was a post he held at a law firm, where the attorneys terminated him for being a “no show” just seven months into the position.

Like many young people first entering the world of employment, he had three versions of his resume. However, each resume had discrepancies that at best, were inaccurate. At worst, they were meant to deceive and claim that he had more experience than he did, even as the experience listed was meager. For example, on all three resumes, Weyeneth asserted he had a master’s degree from Fordham University. The Washington Post spoke with a university spokesman who told them that Weyeneth had not completed his coursework and did not earn the degree.

How did such an inexperienced person get appointed to the commission? The question remains unanswered. Weyeneth graduated from college in May 2016 and was quickly named a White House liaison to the drug office the following March. By July, he was promoted to deputy chief of staff in July. His resume noted no experience in the field of health and human services, mental health or addiction.

Although Mr. Weyeneth has announced his plans to step down by the end of the month, his appointment is a cause for alarm in a department meant to set policy and recommend funding and programs for states, cities, and counties struggling with an epidemic with no end in sight.

ONDCP Needs an Experienced Drug Czar to Tackle Addiction

In the addiction field, honesty is paramount, and policy needs to be set by experienced mental health professionals, medical professionals, and people experienced in the area of addiction and recovery. It is unclear who is in charge in the interim once Mr. Weyenth’s post is vacant; however, the ONDCP website lists Richard Baum as Acting Director. Mr. Baum has a wealth of experience in the drug policy field as an academic and serves as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt Graduate School of Public Policy where he teaches students about American drug policy.

Every year, ONDCP works on and plans a National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines the presidential Administration’s efforts to reduce drug use, manufacturing and trafficking. The policy also focuses on lowering drug-related crimes, overdoses, and other health consequences. In 2017, the agency was still acting on former President Obama’s plan.

Across the US, Diversion Programs Spread Hope

As Americans become more aware that addiction is a disease and not a crisis of character, law enforcement and the judicial system have started to stand up and take notice. Rather than lock up the masses of people with a substance abuse disorder, many law enforcement agencies now offer diversion programs. Diversion programs are run in different ways, but they all focus on helping an addicted person improve their lives and hopefully break free from their disease.

One such example is a program that has been in place for 10 years, in Essex Massachusetts. Started by a DA personally affected by the opioid epidemic, a total of 117 people from 22 communities took part in the drug diversion program in 2016, with a success rate averages 40 to 50 percent. (In the world of substance abuse disorders, this is an excellent rate. Treating these issues can be incredibly challenging.)

The DA goes over cases that are drug-related to find arrestees that may have suffered from addiction. From there, they are offered a range of free services, including medication-assisted therapy, residential treatment, and individual and group therapy. Completing the program prevents them from being prosecuted. They must commit to attending all of the meetings and therapy for at least 6 months, but many of them stay to graduate from treatment. Some people don’t make it the full 6 months, but the people who run the program know they’re saving lives. Some of the attendees just aren’t ready to get clean, but they might have another chance if they get arrested again.

New Diversion Programs Forming All the Time

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the newly-launched Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative steers lower-level drug offenders away from courts and prisons and into recovery.

And in Lucas County, Ohio, one of the hardest-hit areas suffering from opiate addiction in the US, a $1.7 million state grant was just awarded fund a diversion program for people convicted of low-level felonies in Common Pleas Court.

The Targeted Community Alternative to Prison program, better known as T-CAP, gives judges the discretion of keeping offenders in local facilities rather than sending them to prison.

There are many more locations that have started to change the way they view addiction. Diversion programs give people a chance to get clean and away from the shackles of their substance abuse disorder. Many of the programs offer drug treatment for free or low fees. People in these programs may or may not stay clean, but they are there long enough for the seed to be planted. Many of them learn what life is like for those in recovery, and they have at least the desire to stay clean. Programs like these are planting the seeds of hope for those who suffer from addiction to stay clean.