INDIANAPOLIS – Instead of pressing for answers tonight on why President Trump has effectively shuttered a key agency in the fight against opioid abuse, Congressman Messer and Rokita will continue their shadowboxing at the GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner.
Republicans from across the state, including Congressman Messer and Congressman Rokita, will be at tonight’s Lincoln Day Dinner for the Indiana Republican Party, where the keynote speaker will be Donald Trump, Jr., President Trump’s son. He’s one of several Trump children who has been known to advise the Trump Administration.
While Trump, Jr.’s speech is sure to rally the party faithful, President Trump’s under-the-radar decision to close the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will likely go undiscussed. Politico reported on Fridaythat the White House’s budget would cut the ONDCP’s funding by 95%, effectively shuttering what is regarded as the “tip of the spear” in the nation’s fight against drug and opioid abuse. The funding cut, which would “effectively [end ONDCP’s] mission as the lead agency in charge of combating the opioid crisis,” according to the report, is unlikely to be reversed at this point in the process, sources say.
Indiana has been one of the states hardest hit by opioid abuse in recent years, with the number of opioid overdose deaths in Indiana nearly doubling in the five years to 2015. Four percent of Indiana’s nearly five million adults report abusing opioids, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. As part of one of the largest HIV outbreaks in recent memory, over 200 Hoosiers near Austin, IN, which is in Congressman Messer’s district, have tested HIV positive, spreading the disease through needle sharing. Joe Donnelly has helped both Marion and LaPorte counties receive additional funding from the ONDCP’s high-intensity drug trafficking program, which would be eliminated under the Trump budget.
Several Republicans have spoken out against the closure of the ONDCP. Senator Rob Portman, one of the Senate’s Republican leaders in the fight against opioids, saying that “we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic.” Neither Congressman Messer nor Congressman Rokita have spoken out against the closure.
“Indiana Republicans like Congressman Messer and Congressman Rokita are content to link themselves to President Trump at every opportunity, but Hoosiers need them now to convince the Trump Administration to restore its primary weapon in the fight against opioid abuse. As long as Indiana continues to suffer the scourge of opioid abuse, we need leaders on both sides of the aisle willing to stand up for crucial organizations like the ONDCP,” said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, Senior Media Strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party. “With one of President Trump’s crucial advisors and sons in town, will Congressman Messer and Congressman Rokita speak up for Indiana families and demand that the office be restored? Or will they continue to stand idly by?”