“I tell you the scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” Trump said in New Hampshire, a state hit hard by the opioid crisis. “It will stop.” On Monday, President Trump laid out a specific plan to combat the opioid crisis.
Monday’s announcement detailed the White House’s plan that includes solutions to help combat the opioid epidemic and treat and prevent addiction. Some of the recommendations include:
- Measures to reduce opioid over-prescribing
- A national prescription drug monitoring program
- Increased access to lifesaving naloxone
- Expanded use of medication-assisted treatment
However, some additional recommendations, like death-penalties for drug dealers have not been evident to have worked in the past. Over the weekend the White House announced President Trump would seek the death penalty for certain drug dealers and an elite promise of his controversial wall to be built, though many law enforcement experts have said that traffickers will find other ways to get their drugs into the country.
“My Department of Justice will be seeking so many, much tougher penalties than we’ve ever had. For the big pushers, the ones that are really killing so many people, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty,” he said, as he pointed out dealers are responsible for thousands of deaths. “If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time. Just remember that, we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
Under federal law, the death penalty can be applied in some drug trafficking cases when a death occurs, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Still, the president’s focus on enforcement has troubled some drug policy advocates.
Will Congress Fund?
Additionally, Trump’s plan includes those publish health measures that will require new spending from Congress, although it’s unclear whether lawmakers will provide the money. One White House proposal, to expand Medicaid coverage for inpatient addiction treatment by lifting a decades-old restriction, could cost at least several billion dollars per year. However, bipartisan proposals to further address the epidemic will get attention from key congressional committees this week. Congress is also expected to soon announce plans on how it will spend an additional $6 billion toward the epidemic that was provided in last month’s budget deal.
“Ninety percent of the heroin in America comes from our southern border where, eventually the Democrats will agree with us, and will build the wall to keep the damn drugs out,” Trump said. “The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked in the first place. This has been something I have been strongly in favor of, spending a lot of money on great commercials showing how bad it is.”
There were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, mostly involving opioids, according to the most recent federal mortality data. The CDC this month reported that emergency rooms recorded a 30 percent spike in opioid overdoses last summer, indicating that the devastating crisis is worsening.
“They are treating this like a criminal epidemic as opposed to a public health epidemic,” said former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who was a member of the president’s opioid commission last year. “He should be using his bully pulpit to send a clear message that the health system needs to change its stripes … it’s going to be a sideshow about who qualifies for the death penalty.”
On addiction treatment, the plan includes a goal of expanding access to “evidence-based addiction treatment” in every state, particularly for members of the military, veterans and their families and for people leaving jail or prison. Echoing public health experts, a White House official described the three medications used to blunt opioid cravings — buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone — as “the gold standard.”
“Together, we will end the scourge of drug addiction in America once and for all. We will win, we will beat it. We’ll be tough, we’ll be smart, we’ll be kind, we’ll be loving. We’ll do whatever we have to do,” Trump said.
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