Trump pledges US will beat opioid drug epidemic

(Photo Credit: Inform/NDN)

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump took on the opioid drug epidemic Tuesday, pledging that “we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.”

Trump held a briefing on the matter at his private golf course in central New Jersey, where he is on a 17-day “working vacation.” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump were among the attendees.

The president did not announce any new policy, but vowed to work with health professionals and law enforcement on the crisis. He said federal drug prosecutions have dropped but promised he would “be bringing them up rapidly.”

He also said, “We’re very, very tough on the Southern border, where much of this comes in.”

Trump’s drug commission, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, recently called on him to declare a national emergency to deal with the opioid crisis. An initial report from the commission says the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

The White House says it is still reviewing the recommendations in the report. Price said after the briefing that the administration can deploy the necessary resources and attention without declaring a national emergency, though he stressed “all things are on the table for the president.”

Trump drew criticism recently after transcripts of a call with Mexico’s president showed him describing New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den.” The transcripts were published in The Washington Post.

This was the first event listed on the president’s public schedule since he started his “working vacation” on Friday. Trump has pushed back against any suggestion that he is taking a summer break, tweeting that he is holding meetings and making calls while renovations have vacated the West Wing.

A White House official said Tuesday that the briefing with Price and Baum will provide the President with “an update on the opioid crisis” as the White House works to complete its review of an interim report his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The official also labeled the opioid crisis “an issue that he brought to the forefront of the campaign.”

Opioid overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, including here in Ohio, leading state governments to commit millions to fighting the issue.

A national CDC study showing 25% of all drug overdose deaths were related to heroin in 2015. That number was just 6% in 1999.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, alone, officials say at least two people die every day from drug overdoses.

And there are signs that the epidemic isn’t abating. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that estimated drug overdose deaths for the first nine months of 2016 were higher than the first nine months of the previous year, which had already reached an all-time high of 52,404.

In response to the epidemic, Trump created a White House panel tasked with considering how the federal government should respond. The panel, which is being led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, released its interim report earlier this month and suggested that Trump declare a state of emergency to combat opioids.

“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it,” read its report. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”

The report added: “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” noting the fact that 142 Americans die from drug overdoses every day.

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