Former Congressman Jim Ramstad new Obama Drug Czar?

This from the JoinTogether e-newsletter today.  Ranstad impressed at last year’s CADCA meeting, speaking about the importance of insurance companies covering mental health care.  The legislation in the form of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed earlier this year….

As President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team gathers steam, word is leaking out that recently retired Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) — a strong advocate for addiction treatment and recovery — could be in the running for the position of Obama’s “drug czar.”

Drugs — and the addiction issue in general — got very little attention during the recently concluded presidential campaign, but now that Obama has won, his duties prior to taking office on Jan. 20 include selecting candidates for some of the top positions for his forthcoming administration. And although the job of director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has seemed almost invisible in recent years, in fact the “drug czar” is officially part of the president’s Cabinet — technically on par with the Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State.

No candidates for the drug czar’s job have been officially announced by the team running Obama’s search for a successor to current ONDCP head John Walters; the search is reportedly being led by Christopher Putala, Washington, D.C., consultant and former senior Senate Judiciary Committee staffer for then-Chairman (and now vice-president elect) Joseph Biden (D-Del.); and Donald Vereen of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a former NIH researcher and deputy ONDCP director between 1998 and 2001 under President George H.W. Bush.

The Capitol Hill newsmagazine Politico first reported that Ramstad was being considered as a possible head of ONDCP in the Obama administration. Dean Peterson, a Ramstad spokesperson, told Politico it was “gratifying to hear Jim’s name being mentioned for drug czar”; however, a Ramstad spokesperson contacted by Join Together would not comment on whether the nine-term Congressman was in the running for the job.

Ramstad co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Mass.) and has been an outspoken advocate for addiction treatment service, candid about his own recovery from alcoholism, and a driving force behind the recent passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

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One Response to Former Congressman Jim Ramstad new Obama Drug Czar?

  1. I think Congressman Ramstad would be a brilliant choice for ONDCP. His personal story of overcoming alcohol addiction and his tireless work toward helping those with substance abuse and mental health problems obtain treatment is inspiring. I hope that the new administration will place substance abuse and mental health issues at the forefront of the health care agenda. Americans must be better informed about the hundreds of billions of dollars lost to our nation due to these problems. More imortantly, the lives lost and desroyed from addiction mental illness have touched nearly every family in some way!

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