Boston Herald


Says panel role helps state

- By MATT STOUT — matthew.stout@bostonhera­

Newly tapped for a White House blue-ribbon panel, Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday sought to downplay his newfound White House ties, saying he was originally recruited by political ally N.J. Gov. Chris Christie — not President Trump — to join his national opioid commission.

Baker pitched the commission as a way to push the reforms and tactics he helped cultivate to fight the heroin epidemic locally on the national stage, including new education requiremen­ts for doctors and restrictin­g first-time opioid prescripti­ons.

But for a governor who’s routinely tried to sidestep national politics, it’s also plunked him directly into the sights of Bay State Democrats, who’ve moved to wedge Trump into their attacks on the more moderate Baker ahead of his expected re-election effort in 2018.

“I think this issue, the opioid epidemic, is something that ... is not a partisan issue,” Baker told reporters, noting that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was also tapped for the panel. Christie, who Baker has campaigned with and endorsed during the presidenti­al campaign, is chairing the commission.

“The call I got was originally from Gov. Christie in New Jersey. He and I have talked about opioids and addiction generally a lot over the course of the past several years,” Baker said. “From my point of view, if I can help bring some of the things that we’ve been able to accomplish here in Massachuse­tts onto a national stage ... that would be a really good thing.”

The commission, as created by a Trump executive order, offers an ambitious timeline. It calls for a list of interim recommenda­tions within 90 days and a final report by October.

Trump himself has often described it as a supply-side problem fueled by narcotics spewing over the southern border. Baker this year proposed increasing investment­s to help state police fight drug traffickin­g, but he’s largely spoken to the demand side, with a focus on limiting prescripti­ons and offering treatment.

“We talk a lot about stigma, and we always talk about addiction as a disease and you need to treat it as a disease,” said Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary. “I think that’s the lens the governor will take to this. I think that’s part of the message the governor will carry.”

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