Once in a while the temptation to take a pot shot at government panels, committees and commissions just cannot be resisted.
The urge started with the Sept. 4 Federal Register (page 58699) notice that the secretary of health and human services had approved and certified creation of the "National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Alcohol-Related Problems," known familiarly around here as NCAOA-RP.
It caught my eye not only because of the "novelty" of the field it was planning to explore, but also because the notice ran cheek-by-jowl with announcement of a Sept. 19 meeting of the "Prevention, Education, and Information Work Group of the Inter-Agency Committee on Federal Activities for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism." I bet you didn't guess that we refer to it as PEIWGICFAAAA.
Both groups, according to the Register notices, come under the administrative wing of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration -- you guessed it, ADAMHA.
I called an official of that organization, who shall remain nameless as I might misquote him, and tried to get an explanation as to why alcoholism needs all this federal government attention and what NCAOA-RP will do that PEIWGICFAAAA is not already doing. I now wonder what ADAMHA does other than parent such groups.
The answer to the second part of my question was so complex that I never got back to the first. He said that NCAOA-RP will be a bigger deal than PEIWGICFAAAA because it will put together a report for the president and Congress after a 12-month study. Congress also authorized it to spend $1 million on the deal.
Both groups, however, trace their lineage to some congressional act or another, although an earlier presidential commission, one on mental health, first recommended in 1978 putting together this new one on alcoholism.
If you want some of the flavor of the subjects these two groups wrestle with, consider these:
NCAOA-RP wants to study the relationship of alcohol use to aggressive behavior and crime . . . family violence . . . illness" in the traditional mold, and for something new and different, "the needs of special and underserved population groups, including American Indians, Alaskan Natives, youth, the elderly, women, and the handicapped."
PEIWGICFAAAA met last week to review all federal efforts "in the areas of alcohol abuse and alcoholism prevention, education and information," including "advertising and labeling of a alcoholic beverages."