West Virginia doesn’t have a stellar history when it comes to treating opioid use disorder. In 2018, it led the nation in opioid-related problems (https://atforum.com/2018/09/west-virginia-leads-nation-opioid-problems/). More than 10 years ago, the state instituted a moratorium against new OTPs on the mistaken belief that methadone overdoses in the state were related to OTPs; they were not, they were related to physicians untrained in the pharmacotherapy of the medication, and patients unfamiliar with how to use it, prescribing it instead of OxyContin. That moratorium persisted even after the myth was debunked. Then there was the state’s refusal to allow its Medicaid program to pay for methadone treatment until it finally gave in in 2017 (https://atforum.com/2017/12/still-under-moratorium-otps-west-virginia-finally-medicaid-payments/).
Most of this history took place under the tenure of Rahul Gupta, M.D., who, as health commissioner, was not high up enough to counteract the powers of anti-methadone state legislators, who had the state government up against a wall.
Now, Dr. Gupta is in line to be the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Three important points here: 1) Times have changed. 2) Let bygones be bygones. 3) ONDCP is now staffed by people who know the field well: Regina LaBelle, Ph.D., deputy director, and Rob Kent, general counsel (formerly general counsel for New York’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports, or OASAS), to name just two.
Mark Parrino, president of AATOD, gave AT Forum this statement in response to the nomination of Gupta: “We will look forward to working with Dr. Gupta and certainly hope that the White House will support having ONDCP as the coordinator of federal policy in our field. There is no need to rehash how important ONDCP’s leadership can be in organizing a consolidated and strategic response to the challenges that we continually face.”
Other contenders for the position were Dr. LaBelle herself, and H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., Dean’s Executive Professor at Santa Clara University and formerly director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The Washington Post broke the story of the ONDCP director July 13. And as all reporters who cover Washington DC are well aware, President Biden has a very slim margin of votes in the Senate on his side: a margin of 1, in fact. That one is Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia.
In the meantime, the most recent news from ONDCP – predating the nomination of Dr. Gupta – is the allowance of OTP-connected methadone vans (https://atforum.com/2021/07/dea-methadone-vans-otps/).
The news was broken by The Washington Post July 13.