On Tuesday, the White House named Richard Baum, chief of the International Division in the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), to serve as the agency's new acting director.
Baum is replacing Kemp Chester, who was appointed in November, and will serve until the Senate confirms a permanent director. Chester will return to his prior role as ONDCP's associate director for the National Heroin Coordination Group. Observers speculate that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might be on the short list to become the new drug czar. Christie has enacted legislation to stop insurance companies in the state from using prior authorization tactics for addiction treatment and has been tapped to lead a new White House task force to address the opioid crisis, which meets Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
The former head of ONDCP, Michael Botticelli, was himself a person in recovery and left a legacy that helped change the national dialogue around addiction by challenging stigmatizing language and promoting the fact that addiction is a chronic disease rather than a moral failing.