Dear Friends,

I’m writing to introduce myself and to provide some updates for you on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to quickly bring on committed and experienced leadership at ONDCP. On the first day of the Administration, I was sworn in as Deputy Director for National Drug Control Policy. I will serve as Acting Director until we have a Senate-confirmed Director in place.

I am honored to serve at ONDCP again, and I’m looking forward to working with you as we implement our 100-day priorities.

The issues we face today as a nation—from COVID-19, unemployment, and economic hardship to substance use disorder and mounting rates of overdose deaths—are significant. In our space, the pandemic has exacerbated the addiction and overdose epidemic, and overdose deaths are at their highest level ever across communities all over the country. That’s why we’re hitting the ground running with a clear set of policy priorities:

  • The Workforce: Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce.
  • Racial Equity: Confronting racial equity issues related to drug policy.
  • Prevention: Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts, related to both supply and demand reduction.
  • Harm Reduction: Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts.
  • Treatment: Expanding access to evidence-based treatment, including by lifting burdensome restrictions on medications for opioid use disorder.

Meeting these priorities requires staffing up our agency with strong leadership and expertise. Last week, we welcomed Mario Moreno as our new Chief of Staff. You may remember Mario from his previous service as ONDCP’s Press Secretary from 2015 to 2017, where he helped implement press plans to promote public health approaches to substance use disorder.

He has worked on advocacy and research projects related to fentanyl trafficking and organized crime in Mexico, the protection of social leaders in Colombia, and broader human rights issues in Latin America. Mario is a first-generation immigrant and has degrees from Duke University and the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. He also has a decade of experience working in communications, research, and advocacy related to drug policy and human rights. Most recently, he was the Vice President for Communications at the Washington Office on Latin America, a nongovernmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for the promotion of human rights, good governance, and rule of law in Latin America. He is a strong choice to lead our staff and I’m grateful he is on board.

We’ve also welcomed Anne Sokolov as our Associate Director of Legislative Affairs. She joins the agency with over a decade of experience in the House of Representatives, most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Congressman Max Rose. Prior to working for Congressman Rose, Anne spent eight years working for Congressman Tim Ryan, including as his Legislative Director, overseeing the Congressman’s role as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. In this role, she served as the primary legislative staffer for the Congressman’s work as Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. Anne also worked in a legislative role for Congressman Charlie Wilson. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, she is a graduate of George Washington University.

In the coming weeks, we will welcome Ariel Britt, Tom Hill, and Robert Kent to the team.

Ariel “Air” Britt is joining as our Associate Director for Outreach, so she will be your direct connection to our team. Air has spent much of her career focused on intervention and recovery support services, strategic planning, facilitation, creative design, and program development. She is also the creator of the award-winning podcast, Beauty in the Grit. In 2015, Ariel had the privilege of sharing her personal experience as a person in recovery at the White House during the Obama Administration. She is an exceptional speaker with a passion for community and service. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan.

Tom Hill is joining as our Senior Policy Analyst. He is a gay man in long-term recovery from addiction and has been a part of the recovery advocacy movement since 1998, and will be a familiar face to many. Tom most recently served as the Senior Advisor on Addiction and Recovery at the National Council for Behavioral Health, following his former position as Vice President for Practice Improvement. Before joining the National Council, Tom served as the Senior Advisor on Addiction and Recovery to the SAMHSA Administrator and Acting Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment during the Obama Administration. Prior to his Federal service, Tom served as a Senior Associate at Altarum Institute and Director of Programs at Faces & Voices of Recovery.

Robert Kent is joining as our General Counsel. Robert most recently served as the Vice President of Advocacy and General Counsel for the American Association of Orthodontists, a national healthcare organization. Prior to that he served as the General Counsel for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). In this role, Robert provided overall legal support, policy guidance, and direction to the OASAS Executive Office and all divisions of the agency. Robert led OASAS efforts to implement New York State’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force recommendations, which included the Combat Addiction/Heroin Campaign, the Federal Opioid Targeted Grant program, and Medicaid Redesign Team initiatives. He also led efforts on the implementation of historic legislation to increase access to treatment, including harm reduction services. Robert has co-authored articles on patient confidentiality and sober homes and has presented nationally and throughout New York State on the addiction system of care.

We are building a capable and dedicated team to confront the opioid and overdose epidemics. As our work develops, we will look to you for guidance. I look forward to working with each and every one of you and forging new partnerships to bring relief to the American people amid the current crises so that we can build back better.

We will keep you informed as policies and plans develop, and always welcome your thoughts. In the meantime, you can reach us at:

Main line: (202) 395-6700
Office of External and Legislative Affairs: MBX.ONDCP.OELA@ondcp.eop.gov

Best wishes,

Regina LaBelle
Acting Director