In October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. His administration allocated $6 billion in new funding to address it – almost the same amount the Trump administration tried to negotiate for their precious border wall before a partial government shutdown.
So, it came as no surprise that one of Trump’s proposed plans to end the opioid crisis was to build a wall.
In his most recent meeting with health care professionals and addiction specialists in Atlanta, Georgia April 24, Trump announced in order to tackle the root of the epidemic, his administration would center their attention on providing more funding for treatment, scrutinizing Big Pharma, and stricter border patrol.
But, of course, instead of focusing solely on opioid addiction, treatment, and prevention – Trump primarily talked about law enforcement crackdown at the southwestern border, drug-sniffing dogs, detaining immigrant drug dealers, building a border wall, and the banning of chemicals/drugs made outside of the country, throughout his address.
He gloated about his efforts to stop drug trafficking, stating that after he signed the STOP Act, the Customs and Border Protection officers have stopped over six times as many “packages,” including a bust of $19 million worth of cocaine in a shipment of Colombian pineapples at a seaport in Savannah.
In fact, in March 2019, while addressing the opioid crisis, the President’s budget proposal requested $32.5 billion for border security, $8.6 billion for a border wall, $478 million to hire 1,750 additional border protection law enforcement officers, $2.7 billion for 54,000 ICE immigration detention beds, $270 million of “drug-related funding” for the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection to support the continued construction of the border wall, and $750 billion to pursue National Defense Strategy, according to whitehouse.gov.
In addition, the proposal requested $80.2 billion to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs medical care requirements, $330 million for the Department of Justice to aid state and local efforts to fight the opioid crisis, $1.5 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and $50 million for the Department of Agriculture to address the opioid crisis in rural America, according to whitehousgov.
While, yes, some praise Trump for stressing the importance to combat the opioid epidemic and for requesting large sums of money. However, his efforts seem to focus elsewhere.
It seems as if he is using the epidemic as a distraction for his wall. A red-herring, if you must.
Using the opioid epidemic as a way to fulfill a personal vendetta is a low blow, even for him.
In the past 20 years, overdoses by prescription opioids have taken more than 200,000 lives, including a record-breaking 47,600 opioid overdoses in 2017, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If Trump actually wants to tackle to opioid epidemic, he shouldn’t be putting billions of dollars toward border security and infrastructure.
Instead I want to see Trump requesting more funding for drug addiction treatments, such as clinics or medication-assisted treatments, better access to naloxone, policies that help address the root cause of addiction, and research on new ways to regulate pain management.
Don’t use the victims of the opioid epidemic as political pawns.