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Trump Names Kellyanne Conway Czar in Fight Against Opioids

Kellyanne Conway, White House spokesperson and counselor and formerly President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, has been tapped to oversee the administration’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement at a press briefing today, explaining that Trump has asked her “to coordinate and lead the effort from the White House.”

Conway does not have a background in drug policy or public health, though as a White House spokesperson and counselor, she has been involved in the administration’s response. She has a law degree and founded a polling company, called The Polling Company, in 1995, where she advised Republican candidates including Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz.

Conway has agreed with Trump’s “just say no” message about opioids in the past. In an appearance on Fox News last month, she said, “The president echoed the message that many health-care providers and elected officials say, which is, the best way to stop people from dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place…That’s a big core message for our youth that the first lady is continuing to push with prevention education.”

Conway has also backed is the National Institutes of Health’s efforts to develop technology to objectively measure pain, rather than using the “pain scale” of numbers or faces.

“One of the things we heard from many physicians is that the pain-specific indicator contributed to this crisis. We don’t think health care by emoji is a good idea,” she said.

Conway added, “over-prescribing has been problematic, as has the default notion that pain management means pain medicine. That is not true of everyone.”

What Conway will do as the opioid czar is unclear. In 2014, when Ron Klain was named Ebola czar (later changed to Ebola response coordinator), White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Klain would serve “an important, high-level implementation role.” According to Earnest, Klain would also, “make sure that all the government agencies who are responsible for aspects of this response, that their efforts are carefully integrated. He will also be playing a role in making sure the decisions get made.”

Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in October.

Photo courtesy of Michael Vadon via Flickr