In an emailed statement to NPR last week, a White House spokesman said the "country is facing many simultaneous crises and President Biden understands that."
According to Wednesday's announcement, immediate efforts to curb overdose deaths will include a new focus on racial equity in drug policy and expanding access to medications used to treat opioid use disorder.
In its statement, the Biden administration noted two new members of the ONDCP team are themselves in recovery from addiction.
Kassandra Frederique, who heads the Drug Policy Alliance, says she welcomes the White House focus on public health and harm reduction rather than what she described as "failed interdiction efforts."
"Biden picking people with personal experience and public health backgrounds to lead them reflect much of what we have been urging," Frederique says in a statement emailed to NPR.