WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday night is expected in his State of the Union address to call on Congress to work with the administration to address in a bipartisan manner the fentanyl crisis, administration officials said on a call with reporters.
Biden will call for expanded access to opioid-related addiction treatment and announce he will ramp up efforts to curb fentanyl trafficking at the Southern border and via commercial delivery packages, officials said.
“The opioid crisis is affecting just about every community in every state, and it’s being driven by synthetic opioids like illicit fentanyl,” said Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Republicans in Congress have cast blame on the administration for fentanyl drug smuggling, while Democrats argue most seizures of the deadly drug are at the border ports of entry and not via migrants seeking asylum.
White House advisers on the call said the president is expected to lay out several bipartisan priorities, such as expanding access to cancer research, improving health care for veterans and investing in the mental health professions — building on the pillars of a so-called unity agenda.
The administration will also work on a national public health advertisement campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of fentanyl, Gupta said.
One White House guest expected at the State of the Union address lost his 20-year-old daughter, Courtney, in a fentanyl overdose. Now Doug Griffin of Newton, New Hampshire, is raising awareness of the crisis.
Griffin has worked to advocate for better access to substance abuse treatment and, in 2021, wrote a letter to Biden and first lady Jill Biden to address the stigma associated with addiction and barriers to treatment.
Gupta said that the administration will also work to push for opioid addiction treatment for people who are incarcerated.
“This is not a red state problem or a blue state problem,” he said. “This is America’s problem, and (Biden) believes it’s going to take all of us, all of us working together.”
Danielle Carnival, the coordinator for the White House Cancer Moonshot, said that in Biden’s previous State of the Union address to Congress, he stated the goal of the Cancer Moonshot was to cut cancer deaths by at least half over a 25-year period. The program is personal to Biden, who lost his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer.
She said Biden will highlight the program’s progress. “This is an important issue that impacts virtually every single American family and is the second leading cause of death in this country,” Carnival said.
She said Biden’s remarks will focus on the need to accelerate cancer research and treatment, and that Biden will call on Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act, which would “enable us to update our systems for today’s fight against cancer and lock in the strong investment in cancer research that passed in 2016 as part of the broadly bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which otherwise expires this year.”
Christen Linke Young, the deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs, said Biden wants to address the mental health of veterans, including suicide prevention, by pushing for an expansion of health care services, and for also providing housing for veterans.
Linke Young said Biden will also stress the need to take care of the mental health of young people, and will call on Congress to pass legislation to “ban targeted advertising online for children and young people, enact strong protections for their privacy, health and safety online and improve online privacy and transparency for all.”