On Monday, President Trump gave his first-ever speech as Chief Executive fully devoted to addressing opioid addiction prevention. The venue for the address was, appropriately enough, Manchester Community College in New Hampshire, one of the states leading the country in opioid overdoses. Since he came into office, stakeholders in the opioid addiction conversation have been waiting to hear concrete plans from the President regarding this urgent and pervasive public health crisis; what they heard was a mixed bag of sensible and proactive measures and throwback policies that take what many view as an unnecessarily hard line on enforcement and prevention.
Drug Dealers Beware
Among the more polarizing elements of Trump’s opioid addiction prevention plan is a proposal that would make possible the execution of certain serial drug dealers. Opponents of this plan range of strict constitutionalists to those concerned with the disproportionate effects on people of color. While stricter enforcement for serial dealers might be a fundamental part of turning the tide of opioid addiction and subsequent overdose, many argue that there are less drastic means of accomplishing this. The President suggested the Justice Department pursue capital punishment for dealers whose drugs caused death. He later went on to say that the death penalty would be for “the big pushers, the ones that are really killing so many people.”
Sensible and Bipartisan Reforms
Opioid addiction prevention advocates from both sides of the political aisle appreciated the President’s call for expanded treatment access and giving more patients the choice to pursue treatment over incarceration. Long-time political ally and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who President Trump tapped to head his administration’s commission to explore opioid addiction, was an ardent supporter of his state’s Drug Court program during his time in office. Currently, only a fraction of those who need opioid addiction treatment actually receive it. Making treatment more affordable through programs like Medicaid expansion may considerably improve access to patients in need who have been priced out of the current system.
Show Me the Money
Perhaps the most glaring and immediate criticism of the Administration’s opioid addiction prevention plan is the lack of coherent details or institutional resources behind the rhetoric. There’s been little, if any, talk about funding this expanded access to treatment that the President has proposed. Many are waiting, and hoping, to hear more about the money behind the mission and how it can help fight overdose.