President Biden intends to appoint Dr. Rahul Gupta, who led West Virginia’s response to a devastating opioid disaster, to run the Nationwide Workplace of Drug Management Coverage — a alternative which will generate opposition from advocates for folks with substance abuse issues.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would grow to be the primary medical physician to function the nation’s “drug czar” because the position was created in 1988. Dr. Gupta is at present the chief medical and well being officer at March of Dimes.
White Home officers confirmed Mr. Biden’s alternative of Dr. Gupta, which was reported earlier in The Washington Submit. The president is anticipated to make his announcement afterward Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention will publish statistics on drug overdose deaths that, by all indications, will shatter earlier data. Overdose deaths rose by almost 30 p.c over the 12-month interval that resulted in November, from greater than 71,000 to over 90,000, based on preliminary federal knowledge launched final month.
As West Virginia’s commissioner of public well being and state well being officer from 2015 to 2018, Dr. Gupta gained reward for his aggressive response to the opioid disaster. Mr. Biden’s alternative of Dr. Gupta may be politically strategic: He’s an ally of Senator Manchin, the average West Virginia Democrat whose vote is essential to the president’s legislative agenda.
However Dr. Gupta additionally garnered criticism for failing to cease town of Charleston from closing its needle trade program — a key element of the technique generally known as “hurt discount,” which has been embraced by the Biden administration.
As a substitute of serving to drug customers obtain abstinence, hurt discount goals to cut back their danger of dying or buying infectious ailments like AIDS, together with by giving them sterile tools.
Whereas Dr. Gupta was well being commissioner, his division issued a report that discovered fault with the Charleston program and led to its decertification after it had already shut it down. This system had been nationally acknowledged, however was criticized by town’s mayor on the time. Public well being consultants mentioned its closure had a chilling impact on different applications, and saved some from getting off the bottom.
“The Biden administration has made enhancing evidence-based hurt discount applications a precedence, and it’s my honest hope that Dr. Gupta will embrace that coverage and present clear management on that difficulty,” mentioned Robin Pollini, an affiliate professor of behavioral drugs of psychiatry at West Virginia College, who has previously been essential of Dr. Gupta.
In a 2018 interview with West Virginia public broadcasting, Dr. Gupta spoke out towards the closure, saying it was “not in the most effective curiosity of the neighborhood” when needle trade applications like Charleston’s are shut down “reactively.”
“It performs into that stigma and is extra dangerous long-term than it’s useful,” the outlet quoted him as saying.
The son of an Indian diplomat, Dr. Gupta was born in India and grew up in Washington, D.C. He accomplished medical faculty on the College of Delhi when he was 21, based on a biography equipped by the White Home.
The drug management coverage workplace was created by Congress as a part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, signed into legislation by President Ronald Reagan.