President Trump 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 U.S., Politico reports. Trump, joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and other administration officials, emphasized a law-and-order approach, rather than new treatment or social programs, as the primary strategy for halting an epidemic that kills 142 Americans every day. “Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society,” Trump said. “I’m confident that by working with our health care and law enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win.” The remarks echoed similar comments made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this summer.
Trump as a candidate vowed to confront a public health crisis that has hit states he carried in the presidential campaign — like West Virginia and Kentucky — especially hard. Yesterday, he stopped short of declaring the crisis a national emergency, as recommended by his opioid commission led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Price said later that the administration is treating the opioid epidemic as an emergency, but that it does not need to make a formal declaration. The Trump administration has consistently taken a law-and-order approach, despite concerns from experts who say treatment should be the priority. The administration backed the GOP’s Obamacare repeal-and-replace proposal that would have slashed Medicaid — the largest payer of behavioral health services — by $800 billion. Such a proposal would almost certainly result in less access to treatment for people with addiction. About 1.2 million people with substance abuse disorders got insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.