(CNN)New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for President Donald Trump to elevate the opioid epidemic to a national public health emergency in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday.
“We hope that the President declares a public health emergency in this country,” Christie said, speaking on behalf of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
The Republican governor, who chairs the President’s commission, officially spoke with the five-member panel for the first time Monday afternoon to discuss its interim findings. Although the commission was initially asked to release its long-awaited interim report on June 27, a date set when Trump signed his executive order on opioids in March, the commission missed that deadline twice.
The former US attorney compared the loss of life to opioids to the terror attacks of September 11.
“We have a 9/11-scale loss every three weeks,” Christie said, adding that three-fourths of those losses are from opioid overdoses. He stressed that four out of five new heroin addicts in the US started on prescription opioids.
The commission’s long-term solutions center on increased education for health professionals as well as mandatory continuing education for certain professions, according to Christie.
Monday was also new White House chief of staff John Kelly’s first day on the job. According to a senior administration official, Kelly will receive “full authority” within the West Wing, signaling a shift to a more streamlined White House chain of command.
“Everyone must report to the chief of staff, including the President of the United States,” Christie said.
Christie expressed optimism that this structural change would allow the President to be more “effective,” suggesting that the previous setup may have hindered Trump’s executive abilities.
“The three-person structure doesn’t work,” Christie said, adding that it led to the downfall of former chief of staff Reince Priebus. “I said all along that Reince was a bit of a victim of the structure that got set up.”
The governor also addressed his recent return to the media spotlight. After a short break from the front pages following his “Beachgate” photos on the Fourth of July weekend, Christie ran into some trouble with a Chicago Cubs fan at a Milwaukee Brewers game Sunday when he responded to the spectator’s verbal attacks, saying, “You’re a big shot,” according to a viral video of the scene.
“I think that was a very mellow reaction,” Christie said. “Public officials are public servants, but they’re not meant to be public punching bags.”