Melania Trump Tees Up First Issue Initiative With Opioid Crisis Roundtable

| SEP 28, 2017 | 7:35 PM
Melania Trump Hosts Listening Session On Opioid Crisis At White House

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Melania Trump's agenda as first lady is starting to take shape now that she's completed a roundtable discussion with advocates and public officials combating the nation's opioid crisis.

Thursday's event marked the first time the first lady has publicly led an issues-based event of this sort at the White House.

“I want to use my platform as first lady to help as many kids as I can with the many issues they face,” Trump told the roundtable's participants. “Drug addiction, especially opioid abuse, is one of those issues.”

The conversation, held in the State Dining Room, included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. The participants included a fire chief, a judge, advocates, former addicts, and several parents of addicts.

Cecilia and Bobby Brown, who were in attendance, brought a framed photo of their son, who died of an opioid overdose in 2014.

“When he died, he was on a waitlist for two programs and had received a Medicaid card just three days before he died, which would have given an opportunity,” said Cecilia Brown, who started an initiative that provides funding for addiction treatment. “We sent him to college to get a degree, and he came back with this addiction.”

The roundtable follows the first lady's speech at a U.N. General Assembly luncheon, where she highlighted a wide range of issues affecting youth, including “drug addiction, bullying, poverty, disease, trafficking, illiteracy,” and hunger. Earlier this summer, she also attended a roundtable facilitated by Secretary Price.

The gradual ramp-up of an issues initiative follows a quiet start for the first lady. She stayed in New York City after Inauguration Day to take care of her son, Barron, while he finished the school year. But after they packed their bags and moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue full time, Trump has slowly been adding on to the variety of issues she plans to address while in the East Wing.

From September's solo appearance at Prince Harry's Invictus Games in Toronto, an athletics competition for injured service members, to visits to hurricane-ravaged states alongside the president, Melania Trump is pivoting to a more public-facing role. Even during the presidential campaign season, she rarely went on the trail to stump for her husband.

Trump says she plans to work with the White House's opioid commission (headed by Christie) to address the youth and addiction problem she's taken up. However, the goals of her cyberbullying initiative, the first issue she announced she would take on as first lady, have yet to be publicized.