In a wide-ranging speech outlining his latest plan of attack on the opioid crisis, President Donald J. Trump emphasized the need for stricter law enforcement and the interruption of the drug supply. He also seeks the death penalty for dealers.
“Unless you have really, really powerful penalties, led by the death penalty, for the really bad pushers and abusers, we’re going to get nowhere,” said Trump during a speech at Manchester Community College, New Hampshire, in which he announced the latest proposals.
That state has been on the leading edge of the opioid problem, although the rate of drug overdose deaths appears to be slowing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Healthcare Providers on Notice
Trump put healthcare providers and drug manufacturers on notice that they, too, would be subject to legal action.
“Whether you are a dealer, or doctor, or trafficker, or a manufacturer, if you break the law and illegally peddle these deadly poisons, we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will hold you accountable,” he said.
He noted that in 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecuted 3000 defendants, including a pharmacist, a physician’s assistant, and an opioid trafficker, for opioid-related “serious drug crimes.”
The president spent much of the 40-plus-minute speech discussing law enforcement strategies that he said would help stop the opioid crisis, including building a wall on the border with Mexico to keep drugs from entering the United States, denying funding to so-called sanctuary cities that shield undocumented immigrants from federal action, and beefing up criminal penalties for those involved in selling opioids.
The US government is also weighing a federal case against opioid manufacturers, he said. In early March, the DOJ asked a federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors to take 30 days to decide whether to join in the class action. The move came just days after the department said it had formed the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force to coordinate litigation efforts and oversee enforcement against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
“This isn’t about ‘nice’ anymore,” he said. “This isn’t about committees, this isn’t about, ‘let’s get everybody and have dinners,’ or ‘let’s have everybody go do a blue ribbon committee where everybody gets a medal,’ ” said Trump. He then noted that his own President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis had made 65 recommendations that he said his administration had “worked aggressively to put into action.”
Cut Opioid Prescribing by One Third
Trump said he wants the following measures to be taken immediately:
- Provide greater access to overdose-reversing medications, especially to first responders;
- Lift a 1970s-era Medicaid rule that prohibits reimbursement for addiction treatment, especially medication-assisted treatment, in facilities with more than 16 beds;
- Increase access to treatment for the incarcerated and offer treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
The Trump plan also calls for reducing all opioid prescriptions by a third over the next 3 years. Also, the administration is seeking within 3 years to have 75% of the opioid prescriptions that are reimbursed by federal health programs to be written using best practices. Within 5 years, the goal is 95%.
Best practices should be followed by at least 50% of federal healthcare providers within 2 years, and by 100% of those clinicians within 5 years.
“We’ll ensure that opioid addiction is not subsidized by the American taxpayer,” said Trump.
Ads to ‘Scare’ Kids Away from Drugs
The president said his plan would also focus on prevention, in part by creating commercials to scare children away from ever taking up drugs. “The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked,” said Trump.
“That’s the least expensive thing we can do — where you scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials,” he said. He noted that the tactic had been effective in persuading children not to smoke.
The administration also debuted a new website, www.crisisnextdoor.gov, in which individuals and families can share their stories about opioid addiction.
In addition, the government plans to support more research and development on a vaccine to prevent opioid addiction and on nonaddictive pain management options.
“We have to come up with a solution, where we come up with a painkiller that’s not so addictive, and we can do it — we’re not that far off,” said Trump.