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 that will generate opposition from advocates for individuals with substance abuse issues.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would turn into the primary medical physician to function the nation’s “drug czar” because the function was created in 1988. Dr. Gupta is presently 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 in a while Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention will publish statistics on drug overdose deaths that, by all indications, will shatter earlier information. Overdose deaths rose by almost 30 % over the 12-month interval that resulted in November, from greater than 71,000 to over 90,000, in accordance with preliminary federal information 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 might also be politically strategic: He’s an ally of Senator Manchin, the reasonable West Virginia Democrat whose vote is essential to the president’s legislative agenda.
However Dr. Gupta additionally garnered criticism for failing to cease the town of Charleston from closing its needle change program — a key part of the technique often called “hurt discount,” which has been embraced by the Biden administration.
As an alternative of serving to drug customers obtain abstinence, hurt discount goals to cut back their threat of dying or buying infectious illnesses 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 the town’s mayor on the time. Public well being consultants mentioned its closure had a chilling impact on different packages, and saved some from getting off the bottom.
“The Biden administration has made enhancing evidence-based hurt discount packages a precedence, and it’s my honest hope that Dr. Gupta will embrace that coverage and present clear management on that challenge,” mentioned Robin Pollini, an affiliate professor of behavioral drugs of psychiatry at West Virginia College, who has prior to now been vital of Dr. Gupta.
In a 2018 interview with West Virginia public broadcasting, Dr. Gupta spoke out in opposition to the closure, saying it was “not in one of the best curiosity of the neighborhood” when needle change packages like Charleston’s are shut down “reactively.”
“It performs into that stigma and is extra dangerous long-term than it’s helpful,” 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 college on the College of Delhi when he was 21, in accordance with 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 regulation by President Ronald Reagan.