Trump unveils his long-awaited plan to end the opioid crisis
He’s calling for crackdowns on dealers, doctors, and big pharma.
On Monday (March 19), President Trump announced the White House’s long-awaited plan to tackle the opioid crisis, which he referred to as “the general drug crisis.”
The plan includes prevention measures which will be aimed at reducing the number of opioids prescribed by doctors by one-third over the next three years. Officials aim to achieve this by reducing the level of federal reimbursements available to the pharmaceutical industry. Funding will also be increased for Medicaid in order to help hospitals with more than 16 beds provide better treatment options like access to Naloxone, a drug which rapidly reduces opioid overdoses.
In addition to these financial proposals, President Trump is calling for increased oversight of opioid distribution and said that the Department of Justice is considering bringing legal action against pharma companies for pushing addictive drugs. Many big pharma producers and distributors are now facing lawsuits for fueling the opioid crisis and skirting regulations which are meant to track shipments and distribution. In 2017, one of the country’s largest distributors, McKesson Corp, faced fines from the Justice Department for flooding small town pharmacies in the most affected areas of the opioid crisis with excessively large orders of prescription drugs.
Among the most controversial proposals President Trump has made for combatting the opioid crisis has been the death penalty for drug traffickers. Last month, the president reportedly praised the strict policies of countries like the Philippines which have participated in mass killings to manage their drug crisis. In the following days, President Trump publicly floated the idea at the White House’s opioid summit.
“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” he said.
The United States is already currently the only Western country which sentences drug traffickers to capital punishment for having caused the deaths of people they sold drugs to. Trump’s proposal doesn’t seem to ask for an expansion of this policy, but the enforcement of it. For the moment, it’s unclear how this will play out.
The president’s domestic policy adviser Andrew Bremberg told USA Today that the DOJ plans to “seek the death penalty against drug traffickers where it’s appropriate under current law.”
Officers John Hannigan and Michael Zupkosky of the Problem Oriented Policing unit, attached to the Nashua Police Departments narcotics unit, talk with a woman arrested for possession of heroin before putting her in the back of a police cruiser at a local park in Nashua on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. (Photo by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
During his announcement on Monday, the President re-emphasized that this an important part of his plan to combat the opioid crisis. “If we don’t get tough on the dealers we are wasting our time and that toughness includes the death penalty,” he said to applause.
The plan does not propose any new legislation but rather relies more on the president’s office to combat the opioid crisis. It does ask Congress, however, to decrease the threshold for a drug trafficking offense when it comes to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
In the past, Trump has indicated that he would like to rely more heavily on the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to combat the opioid crisis. He’s put forth proposals to transfer 95 percent of the budget for the White House’s main drug policy office to both those federal departments.
New Hampshire, which has the country’s third highest overdose rate, was an obvious choice for the President’s announcement. During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump promised the Granite State that he would make the opioid crisis a priority, setting the announcement up as a fulfillment of that promise.
But the call for a tough on crime approach also comes at a time when New Hampshire itself is considering reforms to its justice system which include more lenient bail conditions, while a recent report from Pew Research showed that harsher punishments do not reduce the rate of drug use.
Trump also tied his immigration policy to the opioid crisis, citing a Center for Immigration study.
“In many parts of the country,” the study reads, “most of the drugs that have fueled this epidemic—primarily fentanyl, which is now responsible for more deaths in New England than heroin—are brought in by foreign drug cartels and distributed by rings that are often staffed by illegal aliens.”
Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control published a report which found that 56.3 percent of opioid overdoses in 10 states are caused by fentanyl, much of which is obtained from the black market. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recently found that the majority of fentanyl in the U.S. comes from China.