I live in the Opioid Capitol of America, Dayton, Ohio. Per capita, more people will die in my city from overdosing on opioids, drugs like fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, tramadol, than any place in America.
“We’re on a pace to to have 800 people die this year from overdose,” Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer told reporters at NBC News. He said the county is trying to fight the crisis by giving officers Narcan, a nasal spray emergency treatment that counteracts the effects of opioids and reverses the effects of an overdose, driving addicts to treatment centers and by using teams of officers and social workers to educate families on the risk of opioid addiction.
“We’re working hard on it but unfortunately we’re not making much progress,” he told Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo.
Coroner Kent Harshbarger picks up where Sheriff Plummer leaves off when his officers fail to make progress. Dr. Harshbarger told NBC that “60-70%” of the dead he sees in the morgue died from overdosing on opioids. His website counts down the numbers who died each month. 80 in May, so far only four in August. 208 of the 429 so far this year came from Dayton. Twelve from my sleepy suburb of expensive homes on tree-lined streets where expensive cars drive slowly to avoid children riding their bikes.
Dr. Harshbarger estimates that Ohio will see more than 10,000 deaths this year from overdoses, more than the entire nation faced in 1990. “This is no different than some kind of mass-casualty event in any other form. It’s just a medical event,” Harshbarger told NBC. “It needs to be recognized that way to bring some federal assets to help us.”
But that isn’t how President Trumpand the federal government see the crisis. To the White House, Dayton’s opioid crisis requires a law and order solution, an approach to drug addiction that has failed for more than 60 years.
Despite the recommendation of a commission appointed by Mr. Trump that called for the implementation of other policy initiatives that would address the crisis directly, the White House doubled down on the law and order approach to drug prevention that experts say simply doesn’t prevent drug use.
“President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed his administration would beat the opioid epidemic by beefing up law enforcement and strengthening security on the southern border to stop illegal drugs from entering the country,” news magazinePolitico reported yesterday. They went on to report that:
“Trump, joined in New Jersey by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and other administration officials, emphasized a tough law-and-order approach, rather than new treatment or social programs, as the White House’s primary strategy for halting an epidemic that kills 142 Americans every day, according to federal statistics.”
“Just Say No.”
Administrations from Nixon through Obama tried the same approach and produced the same failed result. Now President Trump, who won election on the premise that he would bring fresh, new and outside-the-box thinking to Washington, is taking the same approach. Not only that, but he’s bringing back the naive “Just Say No” policies of the 1980’s that failed to stem the rising tide of drug addiction 30 years ago.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,”Trump said yesterday during his speech on the crisis. “So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them: ‘No good, really bad for you in every way.’”
Who doesn’t know that drug dependency is “bad for you in every way?” Clearly, people in my community know this all too well. We also know that what Sheriff Plummer and Dr. Harshbarger need is a federal government that takes the recommendations seriously of the experts on the panel the White House itself commissioned and acts on them.
If President Trump truly wants to solve the opioid crisis, instead of throwing read meat to those in his base who think a jail cell is the cure for heroin addiction, he should take the recommendation of his own experts on the real and achievable game plan to confront the opioid epidemic. Trump, as of the publication of this article, has issued a statement of declaration of a national emergency, but his statements have undercut the findings of the commission he appointed.
If that designation isn’t an accurate description of a preventable crisis that kills 142 Americans a day, what is?