Promote the director of ONDCP to presidential cabinet

Emergency & Crisis Response
Parity, Coverage, & Equitable Access
social determinants of health
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Coverage & Standards
Federal department
Executive Office of the President (EOP)
house committees
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Oversight and Accountability Committee
senate committees
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee


The President should elevate the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which sits within the White House and oversees U.S. drug and substance use policy across 19 federal departments and agencies, to a cabinet-level position. Congress should also amend ONDCP’s authorizing statute to integrate mental health into the structure of the Office.


For years, the ONDCP Director was a Cabinet-level position, but unfortunately was downgraded in 2009. In early 2023, a bipartisan group of 55 members of Congress wrote to President Biden asking him to elevate the Director. They noted that, in 2001, then-Senator Biden supported the ONDCP Director as a cabinet-level position.[1] Without the status as a cabinet member, the ONDCP Director is left without access to the same resources and mechanisms as other higher-ranking leaders, and the drug crisis in our country is left without an advocate at cabinet-level meetings.[3]

For its part, Congress should amend 21 U.S.C. § 1702 to integrate mental health into the authorizing statute that creates ONDCP. Such integration is vital given the interconnectedness between mental health and substance use disorders, which are frequently co-occurring conditions.[2] Indeed, substance use disorders are a type of mental disorder within the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Mental health and addiction policy should not continue to be structurally segregated.


1. U.S. Congress. Letter To President Biden On Re-Elevating Ondcp Director To The Cabinet. Last Updated February 1, 2023.

2. Kennedy, Patrick and Sabat, Kevin. Drug Czar Should Be a Cabinet-Level Position. Newsweek, sec Opinion. Last Updated March 10, 2023.

3. Congressman David Trone.“Ahead of State of the Union, Trone Spearheads Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging Biden to Reinstate Director of ONDCP to Cabinet-level Position.” Last Updated February 1, 2023.