Baker Institute expert available to discuss Trump’s plan to stop opioid abuse


Jeff Falk

Baker Institute expert available to discuss Trump’s plan to stop opioid abuse

HOUSTON — (March 21, 2018) – Several of the proposals President Donald Trump announced Monday in his “Initiative To Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand” are unlikely to effectively address the epidemic, according to a drug policy expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Credit: University

Katharine Neill Harris, the Alfred C. Glassell III Fellow in Drug Policy at the institute, is available to discuss the initiative and related issues with media.

Trump’s plan includes steps to reduce the supply of opioids through tighter regulation of pain-reliever prescriptions and increased law enforcement on the flow of drugs into the U.S. from China and Mexico and through the mail, Neill Harris said. “Other components of the plan include increasing access to treatment, especially medication-assisted treatment, although it is not clear how this will be achieved,” she said.

One goal is to cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years. This recommendation will not be good news to those suffering from chronic pain who already feel squeezed by efforts to curb prescriptions, Neill Harris said. “Responsible prescribing practices are an important component of addressing the epidemic, but solutions should not come at the expense of chronic pain patients, and the plan to cut prescriptions by a third seems like an arbitrary goal that does not account for the variation in need among patients,” she added.

Several proposals in the White House’s plan come from the commission Trump appointed to study ways to combat the opioid epidemic, Neill Harris said. Some of these proposals, such as the recommendation to allow Medicaid to reimburse treatment at facilities with more than 16 beds, are necessary and long overdue changes, she said.

“But several of the measures are unlikely to address the epidemic,” Neill Harris said. “So far, the most controversial of these has been Trump’s call to seek the death penalty against drug traffickers. This measure most likely will not be adopted, as most experts recognize that it would do little to deter people from selling drugs, would be extremely difficult to implement in practice and so far seems to have little political support.

“Trump has also called for increasing federal mandatory minimums for drug traffickers, a move to return to the ‘War on Drugs’ that also would be ineffective in addressing the epidemic. Such a policy recommendation ignores the realities of drug transactions: While there are indeed ‘drug traffickers,’ the vast majority of people selling drugs that get arrested for doing so are low-level dealers, many of whom use drugs themselves.”

Neill Harris said the plan does little to address some of the underlying problems associated with opioid misuse and overdose, such as poverty, lack of economic opportunity and lack of access to affordable health care.


The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Neill Harris. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6775.

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Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.