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America's Heroin Epidemic

Opioid Epidemic: Trump to Set Up Commission on Addiction Crisis

President Donald Trump is expected to launch a commission Wednesday to address the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, according to sources familiar with the planning.

Trump will sign an executive order setting up the commission, which will be tasked with outlining recommendations and federal resources to tackle the drug addiction that kills an estimated 78 people a day.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will serve as chairman of the commission at the president's request.

"The opioid initiative is one that's incredibly important to every family in every corner of this country," Christie said Wednesday on TODAY from outside the White House.

He said his state is grappling with a rise in the rate of drug overdose deaths, which have surpassed murders and automobile accidents.

"What we need to come to grips with is addiction is a disease and no life is disposable. We can help people by giving them appropriate treatment," Christie added.

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Trump is expected to play a visible role with the commission, taking part in events around the country to highlight the need to expand treatment for the addiction.

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who have each spoken out about confronting rising addiction and opioid related-deaths in their states, are expected to also donate time to the effort.

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Deaths from overdoses of opioids, which include prescription painkillers as well as heroin, have reached epidemic status, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 33,000 people died from opioids in 2015 — more than any other year on record, according to the CDC. Nearly half of those overdose deaths involved prescription drugs, the CDC said.

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The commission established by Trump would tackle prevention and interdiction, giving particular attention to addiction recovery and improving access to treatment, sources said.

Those involved in the planning say treatment options and recovery have received far less focus over the last 30 years in past government programs.

Members of the president's team, including senior adviser Jared Kushner, have been working with Christie and his aides over the past month to identify the commission's goals and scope, the sources said.

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Maine, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio and Florida are among the states that saw double-digit percent increases in deaths from opioids between 2014 and 2015, according to the CDC.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy in a landmark report in November called substance abuse disorders “one of the most pressing crises of our time,” and said 90 percent of people with a substance abuse disorder are not getting treatment.