Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Office of the Press Secretary

East Room

5:17 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Chaplain.  I appreciate that.  Please, sit down.

Well, this afternoon, it's my privilege to present our nation’s highest and most revered military distinction.  It's called the “Congressional Medal of Honor.”  There’s nothing like it.  Please join me in welcoming today’s extraordinary recipient, Master Sergeant Matthew Williams.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

We are delighted to have with us the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper.  Thank you, Mark.  And great job to you and to everybody and General Milley for the incredible act you performed seven days ago with al-Baghdadi.  He -- he was hit hard, the way he should've been.  And I just want to say, for all of our military: We're very proud of you.  That was something very special.  The whole world is proud of you, frankly.  So thank you very much.  Thank you, Mark.  Great job.  (Applause.)

Also with us is Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Byrne -- thank you -- thank you, Jim; Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy -- thank you; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley -- thank you, General -- great job, incredible job; Army Chief of Staff James McConville; and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much for being here.

Also thank you to some very special warriors -- in a little different kind of war, maybe, but they are warriors: Senators John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Thom Tillis.  Thank you very much, fellas.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Along with Representative Richard Hudson for being here.  We have a few other great politicians here, but we won't bother because we want to get on with this one.  This is a very special thing.  It's such a great honor.

Joining Matt for this special ceremony is his wife Kate, his father Michael, his mother Janet, brother Cody, and his sister Amy.  Please stand up.  Please.  Thank you.  Great family.  (Applause.)  Each of you has strengthened our nation through your steadfast love and support.  And we want to just thank you.  You're a very, very special family.

We're also honored to be in the presence of eight previous Congressional Medal of Honor winners -- recipients are here.  And I thought maybe we should -- what do you think? -- we should introduce them.  I think so, right?  Huh?  Come on, let's do that.

William Swenson.  William, thank you very much, William.  (Applause.)

Ronald Shurer.  Thank you.  Thank you, Ronald.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Walter Marm.  Hi, Walter.  (Applause.)

Robert Foley.  Thank you, Robert.  Thank you, Robert.  (Applause.)

Brian Thacker.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Florent Groberg.  Thank you.  Thank you, Florent.  (Applause.)

David Bellavia.  David.  (Applause.)  I heard you, maybe, are going to be running for office -- but someday, I know, huh? I'll tell you.  Boy, I'll tell you what: He has my vote.  (Laughter.)  You have a brave politician for a change, right?  That’s great.  Nice to see you, David.  Thank you very much.

And Salvatore Giunta.  Thank you, Salvatore.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Matt Williams grew up in the small town of Boerne, Texas -- a very small town.  He met Kate for the first time in elementary school.  In college, he planned to pursue a career in law enforcement.  But after 9/11, Matt decided his place was on the frontlines of the war on terror.  He wanted to be the best of the best; he worked so hard at it.  So, after graduation, he enlisted in the Army to become a Green Beret. 

Matt finished his Special Forces training in August 2007 and deployed to Afghanistan by October.  On April 6th, 2008, he joined dozens of American Special Forces and Afghan commandos on a mission to take down a terrorist leader in a remote mountain village.  It sounded simple -- not simple.

On that cold spring morning, the soldiers arrived in helicopters and jumped 10 feet from their Chinooks into the rocky and freezing terrain of Shok Valley.

When the first Americans reached the edge of the valley, at the base of a 100-foot mountain, a handful of Special Forces scouted ahead.  The lead group was 60 feet up the slope when roughly 200 insurgents savagely attacked.  And it was a big surprise -- a very unwelcome surprise, I might add.

The terrorists filled the valley with a hail of bullets and explosions.  Matt soon received word that the soldiers on the mountain were pinned down and suffering from mounting casualties.  He organized the Afghan infantry under his command and he led a bold counterassault to stop the enemy advance.

As machinegun fire rained down from above, Matt and his fellow American soldiers, Scott Ford and Ronald Shurer, charged up the mountain.  Once they reached their trapped comrades, Matt realized that several of them were too gravely wounded to be quickly evacuated.  He ran down the mountain to get support and then climbed back up with bullets spraying all around.  Not a good place to be. 

Again and again, Matt exchanged fire with the enemy and rescued his fellow soldiers.  He guided his injured team sergeant, Scott Ford, down the mountain to safety.  When Matt noticed two combatants moving toward a group of the badly wounded, he immediately engaged the enemy fighters and killed them both.

But Matt was not done yet.  In order to rejoin the battle on the mountain, he and Sergeant Seth Howard scaled a sheer cliff completely exposed to attack.  Matt quickly reengaged the adversary and shielded the injured from falling rubble as American warplanes bombed insurgent positions above and rocked the mountain from top to bottom.  He then helped evacuate the wounded down a very, very steep cliff.

As the terrorists continued to try to overrun their position, Matt raced back into battle.  He fought for several more hours, valiantly protecting the wounded and putting his own life in great peril to save his comrades.

Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the Battle of Shok Valley.  His ground commander later wrote: “I’ve never seen a troop so poised, focused, and capable during a… fight.”  And Matt is without question and without reservation, “one of the bravest soldiers” and people “I have ever met.” 

But Matt wants all Americans to know that he was not alone in his heroism that day.  Joining us this afternoon are other heroes of Shok Valley.  Please rise when I read your name: Lieutenant Colonel Kyle Walton.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Master Sergeant Scott Ford.  Thank you, Scott.  (Applause.)  And Luis Morales.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Luis.  (Applause.)  Karl Wurzbach.  Where is Karl?  Thank you, Karl.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Sergeants First Class Seth Howard, Dave Sanders, John Walding, Dillon Behr, and Ryan Wallen.  Thank you, fellas.  (Applause.)  Thank you, fellas.

And very importantly, as you know better than anyone, Afghan translators Ba-rooz Mohmand and Zia Ghafoori.  (Applause.)  How was that?  Okay?  Not bad?  Good.  He said it was okay.  He said it was okay.  Thank you both very much.  Fantastic job.  Fantastic job.  Thank you.

I assume you all agree with this choice, right?  Okay?  Your last chance, eh?  They all agree.  Thank you very much.  I agree, too.  We all do.

Staff Sergeant Ronald Shurer was with us and privileged to be here.  And we had a, not so long ago -- a great ceremony with the Medal of Honor and that was really amazing that you both here are together.

To each and every one of you, I want to thank you and I want to thank the fearless defense and what you’ve done for our country.  It’s incredible.  Your valor, your bravery, your strength, your heart, your soul -- it’s incredible.  Incredible what you’ve done. 

The Battle of Shok Valley is a testament to the overwhelming strength, lethal skill, and unstoppable might of the United States Army Special Forces and all of our military.

The enemy that really held a high ground, superior numbers, and an element of surprise -- they had it all going; everything they're not supposed to have, they had.  But they had one major disadvantage: They were facing the toughest, strongest, and best-trained soldiers anywhere in the world.  We showed that a few days ago.  And these guys didn't know what the hell hit them.  (Laughter.)  No adversary on Earth stands a chance against the American Green Berets.

A few years after that first perilous deployment, Matt married Kate.  Did you make a good decision, Kate, in allowing this to happen, right?  (Laughter.)  Well, you definitely have a brave guy.  I can't speak for the rest.  Okay?  (Laughter.)  He's a brave guy and he's a great guy, so good luck.  That's nice.

Today, they have a young son, Nolan, who will turn three next week.  That's beautiful.  In the years to come, Nolan will learn that his father stands among the ranks of our nation’s greatest heroes.

For more than a decade, Matt has stared down our enemies, fought back the forces of terror, and exemplified the virtue and gallantry of the American warrior.  He has completed five tours in Afghanistan, a deployment in Africa, and he continues to serve our country on active duty today.  That's something -- to have Congressional Medal of Honor and be serving in active duty.  It's very rare.

Matt, we salute your unyielding service, your unbreakable resolve, and your untiring devotion to our great nation and the nation that we all love.  Your spirit keeps our flag waving high, our families safe at home, and our hearts beating with American pride.  On behalf of the entire nation -- our great USA, our incredible United States of America -- we are forever grateful for your life of service and your outstanding courage.

It's now my privilege to present Master Sergeant Matthew Williams with the Congressional Medal of Honor.  And I would like to ask the military aide to come forward and please read the citation.  Thank you.

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America has awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sergeant Matthew O. Williams, United States Army.
Sergeant Williams distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on April 6, 2008, while serving as a Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 336 [3336], Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sergeant Williams's actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and United States Army.

(The Medal of Honor is presented.)  (Applause.)

                                END               5:33 P.M. EDT


The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500-0003 · USA · 202-456-1111

1600 Daily The White House • October 30, 2019 NEW: Overdose Deaths Plummet in States Hit Hardest by Drug Crisis

1600 Daily
The White House • October 30, 2019

NEW: Overdose deaths plummet in states hit hardest by drug crisis

For the nearly 20 million Americans battling substance abuse today, the Trump Administration just launched a new website,, designed to help locate the best treatment options tailored to each person’s particular situation and needs.

Despite its importance, finding the best treatment option for those who need it most hasn’t always been easy. This new website scraps the failed one-size-fits-all approach that Washington too often favors, adopting best practices from outside of government to avoid the usual bureaucratic mess and muddle that can plague public projects.

Now, it’s easier than ever to learn about the full range of resources available, from understanding payment and insurance options to locating the right treatment program among the more than 13,000 state-licensed facilities across the country.  
America’s opioid epidemic is one of the signature issues President Donald J. Trump identified for his Administration to tackle from day one. Before he took office, nearly 64,000 Americans had died from a drug overdose in 2016 alone. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 of those deaths—more than any previous year on record.

Today, that crisis shows signs of fading. The United States saw a 5.1% decline in overdose deaths in 2018, including 24% and 17% drops respectively in the hard-hit states of Ohio and Kentucky. Today’s launch will aim to improve those figures even more.

“We designed it with human-centered principles in mind,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said. “We used real words for real people.”

“Overdose deaths drop sharply in States hard hit by opioid crisis.”

Help is available: Visit or share it with a loved one today.

First and Second Lady deliver a message on disaster preparedness

Today, First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence traveled together to South Carolina in a joint effort to highlight emergency preparedness. The two visited both a local elementary school and nearby military base.

At Lambs Elementary, Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence stopped by a classroom packed with more than 50 students learning about the Red Cross’ Pillowcase Project, an emergency response program for children to help them better prepare for natural disasters. Going table to table, the First and Second Ladies greeted the fifth graders and asked what each would put into their pillowcases in the event of an emergency. Before departing, they handed out small flashlights.

The next stop was Joint Base Charleston, where the two met with service members and their families. They thanked the troops for their hard work on behalf of our Nation and learned about the base’s capabilities for disaster response, relief, and recovery.

More about today’s trip with the First Lady and Second Lady

Photo of the Day

Official White House photo by D. Myles Cullen
Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks to American service members and veterans | October 29, 2019

The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500 · USA · 202-456-1111

Readout from the visit of First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence to Charleston, SC

Office of the First Lady
Readout from the visit of First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence to Charleston, SC
First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence traveled to Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday morning.  The visit focused on thanking troops for their service and learning about the base’s emergency response, relief, and recovery efforts throughout the community and around the globe.  Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence also took time to visit a local school to teach children about the importance of emergency preparedness.

Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence were met by Governor Henry McMaster, of South Carolina, and Mrs. McMaster;  Colonel Adams, Commander of the 628thAir Base Wing; Colonel ZumBrunnen,  Commander, 437th Airlift Wing, and his wife, Mrs. ZumBrunnen; Colonel Thigpen, Vice Commander, 315th Airlift Wing; Mrs. Gilmour, Spouse of Colonel Gregory Gilmour, 315th Airlift Wing Commander.

The first stop in Charleston was Lambs Elementary School.  Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence visited with fifth graders participating in the Red Cross Pillowcase Project, an emergency preparedness program designed specifically for children.  The Pillowcase Project originally started after Hurricane Katrina and has a national goal of reaching 3,500 youth in the state of South Carolina and nearly 225,000 youth throughout the country annually.   As children decorated their pillows, they talked about the different items they would take from their home in case of an emergency.  The First and Second Ladies distributed Be Best flashlights for the kids to include in their safety kit.

At the Emergency Operations Center on base, Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence received briefings from the 841st Transportation Battalion, US Coast Guard, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Emergency Operation Center staff.  Each briefing included information on how the unit was equipped for disaster readiness or response.  With briefings highlighting readiness, stewardship of the seas, weather forecasting, and agency cooperation, the presenters provided insight into the humanitarian recovery efforts and emergency response missions, displaying the important role our military and government agencies play in major emergency situations.

Following the briefing, Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence toured static displays of an Air Force C17, a Coast Guard Helicopter and watercraft, and an Explosive Ordinance Disposal vehicle.  Each stop included a capabilities briefing from a subject matter expert.

Inside an aircraft hangar, Mrs. Trump addressed troops and civilians of Joint Base Charleston, along with military families, acknowledging the incredible efforts of the base personnel.  Mrs. Trump highlighted some of the humanitarian efforts taking place within the community and around the world, reaffirming the Administration’s total support for our men and women in uniform.

The First Lady and Second Lady met with more troops and military families before departing for Washington.

“Thank you to Joint Base Charleston and Lambs Elementary for the wonderful and warm welcome today,” said First Lady Melania Trump.  “It was an honor to meet with so many members of our Armed Forces and to learn about the important and life-saving work happening on this base and within the community every day.  I applaud the Red Cross and Lambs Elementary for proactively teaching our youth important readiness skills so that they can be better equipped for emergency situations.”

“It was an honor to join the First Lady at Joint Base Charleston and learn the vital role service members there play in our nation’s emergency preparedness, said Second Lady Karen Pence.  “I’m also grateful for Red Cross and the lessons they shared with students at Lambs Elementary School on how to best handle an emergency situation.”


The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW · Washington, DC 20500-0003 · USA · 202-456-1111


Office of the Press Secretary

     Sarah C. Arbes, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice Matthew Bassett, resigned.

     Todd C. Chapman, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federative Republic of Brazil.

     Lanny Erdos, of Ohio, to be Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, vice Joseph G. Pizarchik.

     Robert J. Feitel, of Maryland, to be Inspector General, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, vice Hubert T. Bell, Jr., retired.

     Grace Karaffa Obermann, of Virginia, to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years, vice Susan G. Braden, term expired.

     Michael D. Weahkee, of New Mexico, to be Director of the Indian Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, for the term of four years, vice Yvette Roubideaux, term expired.



Office of the Press Secretary

Via Telephone

9:43 A.M. EDT

     MR. CANTRELL:   Thank you, Operator.  Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining this morning’s briefing on the launch of

Opening statements will be on the record, and the question-and-answer portion to follow will be on background, attributable to a senior administration official.

With us today is Senior Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway; Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar; Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Elinore McCance-Katz.

If a subject matter expert is needed in the briefing, he or she will be on background, attributable to a senior administration official.

All information discussed is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

With that, we will begin with Senior Counselor, Kellyanne Conway.

MS. CONWAY:  Thank you so much, Austin.  And thank -- I especially want to thank Dr. McCance-Katz; and, of course, our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar; and each and every one of you for your interest in the topic.  We’re quite excited today to launch -- the latest building block in what has become a central focus for President Trump, First Lady, Mrs. Melania Trump; and the entire administration in our whole-of-government approach to treat the whole person suffering from substance misuse disorder.

Bringing the full weight of this administration to bear on three fronts of this “crisis next door,” as we call it -- number one, prevention and education; number two, law enforcement and interdiction; number three, treatment and recovery.  And that last prong really gets a big boost today by providing more of a connective tissue between those in need and those who love those in need and finding the treatment that they require and that is available to them.

Let me just review a couple of points of the progress report in our administration’s fight against the opioid and overall drug supply/drug demand crisis.  We recently received government data, showing that, for the first time in 30 years, we have a 5.1 percent decline in overdose deaths due to drugs.  That’s falling off of its peak, in some of our states, up to 24 percent -- a 24 percent reduction in overdose deaths in Ohio; 23 percent reduction in Pennsylvania; down 19 percent in Iowa; down 17 percent in Kentucky; a decline of 11 percent in the hard-hit state of New Hampshire; and the hardest-hit state, West Virginia, down 9 percent.

The battleship is turning slowly, but it’s pointed in the right direction.  Still, many continue to shy toward recovery.  The depths of addiction and misuse disorder are difficult enough without the complexities involved in trying to navigate insurance payments, privacy and confidentiality, compassion, and then of course trying to locate a treatment provider that best meets each patient’s customized needs.

No part of this administration has turned a blind eye to this crisis.  And I think, when we’re talking about recovery, I should just mention a few things:

One, the Department of Labor is aggressively engaged and has invested over $100 million in workforce training grants to 17 states and the Cherokee Nation.  In fact, just tomorrow, Secretary of Labor Gene Scalia will be in Pennsylvania announcing a new displaced worker grant.

USDA is partnering with treatment providers in rural communities to expand access to recovery housing.

Treasury has issued four, first-of-its-kind advisories to the private sector to help strengthen and secure the supply chains for fentanyl traffickers, giving the private sector more of an eye toward the money, manufacture, marketing, and movement of illicit opioids -- illicit drugs like fentanyl.

The Department of Interior has created a tribal task force specifically to combat the opioid crisis on tribal lands and to expand treatment and recovery available options there.

The recent settlements in the major opioid crisis lawsuit in Ohio proves that this is not just a supply or a demand problem, but both.

And today, we recognize that many Americans have a limited window when they themselves or someone they care about is struggling with addiction or misuse disorder, and that window closes quickly if the silence and the stigma overtake that desire and, indeed, that need to access treatment.

Too often, people will just type into a search bar: “need treatment,” “drug treatment,” “drug addiction,” “addiction services near me,” -- whatever the pedestrian language that we would all use to try to get action fast.  And I’m sorry to report that -- for years, if not decades -- there has been, I would say, an insufficient response to such a search.

So, starting today, we’re very happy to announce a newly-configured tool, through SAMHSA -- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration --  Truth in advertising.  These are real results for real people, using real language.

No more clinical language.  No more quantity over quality, so that you get this map of thousands of locations within a 500-mile radius toward you.  That actually has prevented so many people from accessing treatment because they can't customize it according to residential treatment, according to people who may want to keep their jobs and stay at home, but get some type of outpatient treatment, medically assisted treatment -- something that we have advocated for and funded in this administration.  Perhaps you want to customize your search by under-18, by one gender or the other, by LGBT sensitivity, by veterans, for example.

So we're allowing folks to customize those searches through this  This website provides information on locations, treatment options, insurance information, payment, and it takes 13,000 of the state-licensed facilities in the data set and customizes that search for folks who are accessing this type of treatment.

     We incorporated 300 pieces of feedback, including -- in addition to 60 long-form informational interviews from recovery professionals, health-line operators, local advocates, parents seeking help, and, indeed, Americans in active recovery.  The input is just as important as the output. was built to help all Americans struggling with substance abuse disorder, and we are thrilled to launch this website today.

     I would now like to turn it over to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.

     SECRETARY AZAR:  Thanks, Kellyanne, for kicking off the call and thanks for your dedication to combatting this crisis.

     Today, the Trump administration is announcing a way to make it much easier and more convenient to find the treatment that you or a loved one might need for substance abuse.

     We know that finding access to the right provider at the right time can be essential to helping someone start on the road to recovery.  In fact, it can be lifesaving.

     Today's action is just part of our broader commitment to expanding access to treatment for substance abuse -- especially opioid addiction -- which includes not just connecting people to treatment, but also increasing the quality of that treatment and expanding the supply of treatment providers.

     One of the first public appearances that I made in my time as Secretary was speaking to the National Governors Association about the opioid crisis.  I emphasized that there is a lot we still need to learn about how to beat this crisis, but we do know one thing very well: Treatment and, in particular, medication-assisted treatment works.  We're not going to beat this crisis without connecting more Americans to evidence-based treatment.  In the case of opioid addiction, that is medication-assisted treatment -- or “MAT” -- with appropriate, psycho-social services and recovery support.

     We unequivocally and strongly support MAT because we see addiction as a medical issue, not a moral failing.  Addiction demands treatment, not judgment.  President Trump agrees.  When he launched the Opioid Strategy last year in New Hampshire, he said we need to, quote, "make medically assisted treatment more available and affordable."
     Our estimates suggest that before the President took office in 2016, 921,000 Americans were receiving medication-assisted treatment.  Now, in 2019, our estimates suggest we have 1.27 million Americans receiving this treatment -- a 38 percent increase.

     In the $1.5 billion State Opioid Response grant that SAMHSA has dispersed over the last two years, we've put a special focus on medication-assisted treatment by requiring that all treatment providers receiving grants make all forms of MAT available.

     We're also expanding access to treatment through our insurance programs.  When the President asked HHS to declare a public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis back in 2017, he promised more approvals of Medicaid waivers for states to help, quote, "unlock treatment for people in need."  They’d come, quote, "very, very fast," end quote, he said.  And since he took office, we've approved waivers for 22 states, compared with 4 under the previous administration.

     These results are just part of broader work we're doing to prevent addiction and save lives, including a 378 percent increase in Naloxone prescribing, and a 31 percent decrease in the total amount of opioids prescribed.

     We're achieving these results in cooperation with communities on the ground, because expanding access to treatment for Americans struggling with addiction is a priority all across HHS.  That ranges from CMS, where we're opening up new ways to pay for treatment; to IHS, the Indian Health Service, where we're expanding access to MAT providers; to NIH and FDA, where we're helping support work toward new MAT formulations; to CDC, where we're helping communities using overdose data to connect people to treatment as effectively as possible.

     And, of course, at SAMHSA, we're focused on supporting evidence-based treatment and relying on the best science possible.

     So, now I want to hand things over to Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz, who can explain more about the context of how SAMHSA helps Americans access treatment and how she's advanced those efforts.

     ASSISTANT SECRETARY MCCANCE-KATZ:  Thank you, Secretary Azar.  This launch represents an exciting action for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the field and for millions of Americans struggling with substance use disorder across the United States.

     SAMHSA is the primary federal agency charged with addressing mental and substance use disorders for the nation.  One of SAMHSA's primary roles is to increase access to evidence-based prevention treatment and recovery support services for individuals across the country with mental or substance use disorders.

     As the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, I take this responsibility quite seriously and see the launch of an updated, easier-to-use treatment locator as a key step in how we will increase access to substance use disorder treatment.

     We know that, unfortunately, the opioid crisis has taken the lives of far too many Americans.  We need to work together to do all we can to ensure that locating treatment is not the barrier to actually receiving treatment.

     As an addiction psychiatrist, I've spent the majority of my career treating substance use disorders, including opioid use.  And I know firsthand that when a person makes a decision to seek treatment, if treatment options are not readily accessible and available, the opportunity may be lost.
     The nature of addiction is not one in which we can ask people to wait while treatment becomes more easily accessible.  With substance use disorders, we must act immediately and have systems in place that do the same.

     SAMHSA's treatment locator has been in operation for nearly 20 years, beginning in 2000, with a simple searchable interface to find treatment.  The last major overhaul of the system was done in 2002, and a large map interface was added at that time.  Since 2002, adjustments have been made to the locator, adding more facilities and ensuring greater ease in searching.

This launch reflects the commitment, on the part of President Trump and Secretary Azar, to truly bring the locator into the 21st century with better technology, a modernized search capability, and a more efficient way to search for treatment.  The new and improved locator reflects months of improvements based on feedback from members of the public.

I know that, since January 1st of this year, the SAMHSA locator has already had over 2 million visitors and I'm confident that the newly improved locator will yield even more interest.  I'm very hopeful that this step will serve as an integral tool in helping Americans and their families find treatment they so urgently need.

By increasing access to treatment, I know we can stem the tide of the opioid crisis across the country and save lives and communities across our nation.

MR. CANTRELL:  Thank you, all.  Operator, we will now take some questions. 

Q    Hi, this is Trevor Shirley.  I'm a reporter with Nexstar, here in D.C.  I think anybody can answer this or jump in on it, but -- when you go into the search engine and you type in your ZIP Code and the options come up, what's being done to ensure that you're getting quality over quantity?  In essence, I mean, are there -- I mean, are these all certified places, licensed places, so that we know that people aren’t preying on other people in their time of need?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  Yes.  Thanks for that question.  That’s a really important question.  These programs are all programs that we at SAMHSA get information about through our National Survey on Substance Abuse Treatment Services -- or “N-SSATS.”  These are all state-registered programs and are regulated within the states, and those are the only kinds of programs for treatment that we placed on the site.
     Q    Hi, this is Brianna Ehley with Politico.  I'm just following up on that question.  So, you said the way that you guys are ensuring that the programs listed on this treatment locator are safe is just basically trusting that the state has already vetted them?  Or will you do additional vetting just to make sure that they're good quality treatments?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We trust the states to monitor the programs in their jurisdictions -- that they certify those programs and we accept their word.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s [senior administration official].  If I may just interject, also, that is -- there are over 13,000 state-licensed facilities already in the system.  So there is -- they are reflected.  This is why we believe, since we know that the crisis is indiscriminate, affecting everyone, we want the treatment to be indiscriminate, so that it’s accessible.

     Look, some people may not want a treatment location close to them.  They may want to go farther out.  And that’s something that we're sensitive to, as well, which is why you can now customize your search according to any number of factors that are important to you or immutable to you.

     Secondly, I just want to give praise to Google, who has been a wonderful private-sector partner to all of us in our efforts, through everything from their website, “Recover Together”; to Take Back Day.  They're up to 8,300 locations that they will map for you for Take Back Day.  Secretary Azar and Acting Administrator Dhillon and I were over at Google in April for Take Back Day.  They had about 5,600 locations (inaudible) for this most recent Take Back Day.

Why do I mention that?  For two reasons.  One: It’s a good model for how when you populate a popular website -- accessible website, to begin with -- with additional resources, people will come and access those resources.  So, here, we're dealing with 13,000 state-licensed facilities.

Number two: Google, early on in our administration, at our urging, helped to shut down a lot of these ads for crackpot, quote, "treatment facilities" that are not licensed, would not be recognized by Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz and the state facilities that she is describing.

     Q    Hi, it's Lenny Bernstein at the Washington Post.  Quick question about the data cited at the top of the call -- those encouraging statistics.  Are you -- are those still provisional numbers, or are you offering -- are you saying those are final from 2018 right now?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi, this is [senior administration official].  Those are still provisional numbers.  But remember, those provisional numbers have 99.85 percent of data already included in them.  So although they are provisional and may be subject to a decimal point move in some direction, they're going to be pretty close to approximating the final numbers when those are released.

     Q    Yes.  Hello, this is Alicia Ault with Medscape Medical News.  And I'm just wondering how you plan on getting word of this site out to the public, but also to referring physicians.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, I think one vehicle is this call, hoping that you all will be able to get the word out and report on it.  I know that I'm doing -- I'm doing a bunch of media today on that, and Kellyanne will also be.  I think the Administrator is getting out there.  And so those are just the usual tools to try to communicate this, and have it out there, and echo it out.

We'd encourage you to please do everything you can to do that.  And the White House will be promoting across all of its digital and social media channels.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And, at SAMHSA, we will -- our Office of Communications will be doing email blasts.  We have about 80,000 people that -- of practitioners that we'll reach that way.  And we'll post it on our website.  We'll take our steps in communicating with stakeholders and practitioners in the field.

     Q    Hi, it’s Abby Goodnough at the New York Times.  I’m wondering if there’s any attempt at the federal level to track outcomes of medication-assisted treatments in programs that are receiving the Opioid Response grant money -- like relapse rates, how long people are staying on the medication, that sort of thing?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, thank you for that question.  In fact, at SAMHSA we do collect data on outcomes for every person who receives services through our grants.  We have a data collection system.  It’s required by federal law.  And we look at it regularly to follow the numbers of people who are getting treatment, the types of treatment they’re getting, and the outcomes.

     Q    Hi, this is (inaudible) News Medical Unit.  So what would you say -- just two quick questions -- the major kind of differences between this specific -- like the improvements and the older version?  So is it the locator or would you say it’s the customizable kind of search engine that provides the better filter?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It’s [senior administration official].  And I should have mentioned here or someone should have, prior to this call, that perhaps we should tell you how it was redesigned -- no government contracting, very few resources used.  It actually was redesigned through a combination of GSA; Office of Digital Strategy, here at the White House; obviously, HHS; and SAMHSA.

So we -- we will list a little bit later -- we’d like show you the before and after, because I think to grasp it visually is quite remarkable.     

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, this is [senior administration official].  It’s actually -- it’s really quite an incredible tool.  You go in and you can just -- I was doing it this morning -- you put your ZIP Code in, and you can customize the search based on: Are you looking for inpatient?  Are you looking for temporary?  Are you looking for outpatient?  Are you looking for MAT?  You can even customize based on the type of MAT that you’re looking for, based on the drug used in the program.

You can -- something I find really important -- you can customize the search by payment accepted.  So are they a Medicaid provider?  Do they take private insurance?  Obviously, it’s a geographic search.

As my colleague mentioned, these even have options -- you have a LGBT option to search with.  You have an 18-and-under or 19-and-over option.  So just, really, a fantastic search engineer there.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We did away with the clinical language and we even -- there was a language expert involved from the health (inaudible).

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think another major change was the old tool also had purely mental health -- I believe there was some mental health in there.  Is that right, [senior administration official]?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That’s right.  It does have the mental health treatment programs, nationally, as well.  Yeah.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And then we’re going to turn over the call, also, for a little bit more expertise to [senior administration official] and [senior administration official] from the Office of Digital Strategy.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So with this website redesign, you really started with the users and started with doing those individual interviews.  So it was a user-centered design.  We kind of call it an “American-centered design” -- starting with what the American people need.

And from those interviews, we realized the things that they really needed and the questions that they were asking were centered around the type of -- the services the facilities offered.  Services, that is: How do I pay for my treatment?  What are different types of treatment options?

So, as we were going through the process, we prioritized the things that the American people really needed and that they were asking the questions about.  So instead of finding the location that was closest to them, this website is designed to find the location that best meets the needs of that individual person to get the treatments that they so desperately need.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And another great benefit of the site are the ways in which it shows people the information they need to understand more about treatment.  So further down, below the search box on the site, there is some really great resources provided by SAMHSA that shows people the kind of information we heard, directly from them, was critical as they explored their treatment options.

Q    Hi, it’s Alicia Ault with Medscape again.  I’m just wondering if this site is dynamic in anyway.  Obviously, over the last few years, a lot of providers have jumped into this market and you also have providers that are being disqualified for various reasons -- some of them being found to be fraudulent.  So do you remove providers or add providers on a dynamic basis?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, we do.  The survey that I mentioned a few minutes ago -- the National Survey on Substance Abuse Treatment Services -- is collected yearly, and our staff do update the website based on that.

MR. CANTRELL:  Great.  Thank you, everyone.  This will conclude our call.  Again, opening remarks were on the record.  The question-and-answer section is on background, attributable to a senior administration official.  Again, any subject matter experts that may have added to the briefing are on background as well.

As always, direct all further questions to the White House Press Office.  Thank you every one for joining this morning. 

                        END                10:09 A.M. EDT  

History Will Not Be Kind to Nancy Pelosi

West Wing Reads

History Will Not Be Kind to Nancy Pelosi

“One way or another, Nancy Pelosi will go down in history. Let’s hope she doesn’t take America with her,” Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Post.

Speaker Pelosi’s decision to go all in on impeachment “is a historic mistake, one that could tear America apart. Based on the evidence the House has made public, impeaching Trump is a meritless, reckless assault on democracy.”

Goodwin explains that “[Pelosi’s] real problem is that she doesn’t have the goods to justify impeachment under any process. And she won’t, no matter how many witnesses emerge from the bureaucracy to say they were unhappy with the Ukraine call or didn’t agree with Trump’s choices. Policy disagreements and murky arguments won’t lead to a public consensus for removing an elected president.”

Click here to read more.
“The Trump administration has unveiled a website aimed at helping millions of Americans with substance abuse issues learn about and locate treatment options,” Zeke Miller reports for The Associated Press. The new website, called, “is the latest development in the administration’s effort to address the nation’s opioid crisis.”
“Last weekend the Washington Post changed an appalling headline after readers expressed their disappointment. But the paper’s bizarre obituary for terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may still need a rewrite,” James Freeman writes in The Wall Street Journal. The first paragraph of their story about the dead ISIS leader still stunningly portrays Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar.”
In The Arizona Republic, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) writes that she is ready to vote yes on President Trump’s updated NAFTA deal, the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement—but can’t do so until House Democrats finally agree to let the bill come to a vote. “It’s not hard to see how much Arizona [and other American] communities, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and business owners stand to gain from Congress finalizing the USMCA.”
In Fox Business, Acting Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Chris Pilkerton writes that President Trump and the SBA are proud “to partner with makerspaces across the country . . . by offering budding entrepreneurs and those looking to enter the workforce with a means to achieve success for themselves, their families and their surrounding communities.”

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