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Seriously, we can do better than Kellyanne Conway

Bristol Herald Courier - 12/3/2017

Yes, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is the newly appointed leader of the battle against the opioid crisis. Seriously.

Seriously? Kellyanne Conway? Seriously.

The same person who said "everyone in this nation is impacted" by the opioid crisis to a group of families with missing members from the crisis - which is effectively like saying the sky is blue.

The same person who coined the catch phrase "alternative facts" after former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, well, misjudged the crowd size at President Trump's inauguration.

The same person whose attendance and diligent note-taking at opioid addiction awareness conferences and meetings from the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis were cited as part of her qualifications.

Yes, seriously.

The opioid epidemic is a monumental problem requiring a deft solution. Conway is not that solution.

But in the interest of fairness, let's review what we know about Conway's approach thus far to deduce the merit in her leadership for the crisis claiming 91 lives a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the very least, we commend the administration for having a consistent message about prevention, as both Sessions and Trump expressed the same sentiment: Opioid abuse can be stopped by simply not starting. We're also pleased to see the administration's quick appointment of a leader just over a month after Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

Unfortunately, that's where our compliments end. (And they're not even Conway-centered, at that.)

The problem is one we've explored before: That outdated idea of "just saying no" only addresses part of the problem while exacerbating antiquated notions of victim-blaming. Prevention might deter a new generation of users, but it does nothing for adults and the elderly that have already succumbed to the clutch of opioids, especially those looking for legitimate pain relief. That message also assumes opioid users choose to live a life of addiction, loss and decline - that individuals had a chance to say "no," as if it's cut-and-dry, but made a bad decision.

But Conway purports it is as simple as saying no: In an ABC interview in June, Conway asserted that in-facility treatment and recovery requires not "pouring money into the problem" but "a four letter word called will."

Yes, seriously. Let that sit for a moment.

We'd dispute the qualifications for the job she already has, let alone another public sector position - and one that could alter hundreds of thousands of lives.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions touted Conway's skills for the role, classifying her as "exceedingly talented." Still, the White House maintains Conway's plans have always included the opioid crisis, and hence the announcement doesn't formalize a new role for her. Nonetheless, Conway has no experience for the duties given to her. None.

But as always, we remain optimistic - at least as much as we realistically can - in hoping she taps into the recommendations from the President's Commission. Those, Conway can be assured, are not alternative facts. Seriously.


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