On January 20, the Biden administration announced Regina LaBelle as acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. LaBelle, who previously served as the ONDCP’s chief of staff during the Obama administration, appears to be more aligned with harm reduction than a typical candidate for the role.

27 Jan 2021

“We are thrilled that a friend of the harm reduction community will serve as acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy,” AIDS United tweeted after the announcement. 

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LaBelle has been particularly interested in increasing access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) for people in detention centers. She’s praised a MOUD program in New York’s Albany County jail, and helped to develop a model law for access to MOUD in correctional settings. 

The administration hasn’t yet named a long-term “drug czar,” as the role is known, but that isn’t unusual. The position is usually filled after inauguration day, according to Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)*. Regardless, some advocates are excited by the prospect of pushing the yet-to-be-named drug czar to embrace harm reduction—and have already laid out the agenda items that they’d like to see the new administration pursue.

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