The president revealed on Tuesday what his plan would be to defeat the opioid epidemic. He vowed that his administration would beef up law enforcement and strengthen security on the southern border to stop illegal drugs from entering the country.
Trump was joined in Bedminster, New Jersey by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as well as other administration officials. He emphasized a strict “law and order” approach rather than a focus on treatment or social programs as the primary thrust of the White House strategy. The opioid epidemic kills 142 Americans every day, according to federal statistics.
“Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society,” Trump said. “I’m confident that by working with our health care and law enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.”
The president reinforced similar remarks made earlier this summer by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president stopped short on Tuesday of declaring that the opioid crisis was a national emergency. This was the recommendation made last week by the White House’s opioid commission which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Tom Price later told reporters that the Trump administration was treating the opioid epidemic as an emergency, but it did not need to make a formal declaration.
“We believe that, at this point, the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis, at this point, can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency. Although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said. He added that there would be a joint effort between the Health and Human Services Department and the Justice Department.
The White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis last week had recommended the emergency declaration. Christie’s committee said that the resolution would allow the federal government to more quickly free up federal funds to expand access to substance-abuse treatments. Price insisted that the Trump administration is not interested in cutting funding for treatment through Medicaid. “The president’s goal is to make certain we have a health care system that works for patients,” Price said. But Tuesday’s announcement makes it clear that the priority will not be focused on treatment but law enforcement and border security.
The data on the opioid epidemic shows drug overdose deaths are on the rise. In the first nine of months of 2016, the National Center for Health Statistics estimates overdose fatalities hit a record 19.9 per 100,000 people, up from 16.7 for the corresponding period in 2015.
Many are saying this is the war on drugs part two, what do you think?