WASHINGTON ― New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will lead a commission to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday at a White House event on the issue.
Christie has long spoken in personal terms about the need to fight drug addiction. During his presidential campaign in 2015, he recounted the story of a law school friend who died after battling an addiction to prescription painkillers, a moment that went viral.
Last month, Christie signed a bill that requires health insurers in New Jersey to cover treatment for substance abuse for up to six months.
“The person who’s in the throes of addiction … [and] realizes he or she needs help, they should not be blocked from the treatment center doors with their lives hanging in the balance,” he said.
Trump’s announcement came the same day that Christie’s former aides Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly were sentenced for their roles in the 2013 “Bridgegate” scandal. In November, they were found guilty of all charges, which included conspiracy and fraud.
Though Christie has maintained that he had no direct involvement in the scheme that shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge as payback for a Democratic mayor refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election bid, the scandal has dogged his political career.
After dropping out of the presidential race in February 2016, Christie quickly endorsed Trump, in a surprise move. He became an adviser and led Trump’s transition efforts, before being sidelined. Since Trump’s election, Christie has largely been out of the spotlight and was reportedly passed over for top roles in the administration.
At Wednesday’s event, Trump, who made combating the opioid epidemic a campaign pledge, said his administration wants “to help people who have become so badly addicted.” But his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act last week would have eliminated a mandate that requires Medicaid to cover addiction services.
This article was updated to reflect that Baroni and Kelly were both sentenced on Wednesday.