Bondi to sit on national drug abuse panel headed by NJ Gov. Chris Christie

President Trump on Wednesday appointed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – a former rival and deposed head of his transition team – to lead a White House commission to combat drug addiction and named Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi a commission member.

New Jersey Governor and then Presidential Candidate Chris Christie spoke at the Caron Treatment Centers in Boca Raton in December 2015.

During a White House listening session on Wednesday, Trump, Christie, Bondi, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Cabinet members and policy makers heard from a recovered addict, the founder of a drug treatment center and a mother whose son had overdosed and died.

“I am honored to be appointed to the President’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission,” Bondi said in a press release. “I want to thank the president of the United States, Governor Christie and many others for caring about this deadly epidemic.”

Christie has made drug treatment the centerpiece of his administration and has dedicated his final year in office to addressing the drug crisis.

During an event at Caron Renaissance in Boca Raton in 2015, Christie – then a candidate for president – said his empathy for addicts came from his personal experience with his mother’s cigarette addiction and a law school friend’s overdose death from painkillers.

The commission is being rolled out as part of a new office led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has had a frosty relationship with Christie, a former U.S. attorney.

Christie obtained convictions against Kushner’s father in 2004 and 2005 for illegal campaign contributions, criminal tax evasion and witness tampering.

Kushner and Christie had lunch together at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the administration’s drug policy. Exactly what the commission will do and how it will be financed is not yet known.

But Christie offered some details about his plan while speaking at Caron Renaissance in 2015.

“First you have to change the mindset of prosecutors,” candidate-Christie said.  “Sometimes justice means prosecuting and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Christie said he would create drug courts in each of the 93 federal court districts and use the money saved by diverting addicts from prison to provide more public drug treatment.

Christie’s position leading the new commission is a volunteer one. However, people close to him say that he is open to potentially joining the administration when his term ends in January.

 

 

Lawmakers cite Post’s investigation as motive for change

Local lawmakers agreed on Wednesday to cross the aisle and work together on passing legislation to address the opioid crisis and corruption in sober homes.heroin-front-page

During a brief presentation at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission and its Legislative Delegation, Democratic Senator Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth urged his colleagues to support a bill soon to be proposed by Republican Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton that will address sober home regulation.

Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick praised the Palm Beach Post for its investigation of corruption in the drug treatment industry and the opioid epidemic.

“We as elected officials work hard in the community and have created task forces but the media, in particular our local Palm Beach Post, has done a wonderful job with presenting the faces of the addiction problem and the health care issues statewide that effect all of us,” Burdick said, referring to a recent article that estimated the cost of the opioid epidemic at Florida hospitals at $1.1 billion.

Spoon sigAssistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron, formerly the county’s top lobbyist, said he has sent “dozens” of articles from the Post’s series to the White House National Office of Drug Control Policy, hoping to show the extent of the problem.

“We really have struggled in Congress to make the case that we are dealing with a crisis,” Bonlarron said. “This really is a priority issue for us.”

Clemens said he will seek money to continue funding the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, created by Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. The task force has made 9 arrests and drafted proposed legislation.

Clemens and Hager have led the 4-year-long battle to reign in sober homes and succeeded in passing a bill that prohibits treatment centers from referring patients to sober homes that have not been certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.

The county will also seek more money for the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, which is contracted by the Department of Children and Families to oversee drug treatment providers.