President Trump pledged to achieve victory over the opioid epidemic in a speech in hard-hit New Hampshire, touting a “tough” law-enforcement approach—including the death penalty for dealers—as Congress wrestles with treatment funding, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis,” Trump said. “This is about winning a very, very tough problem, and if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it’s not going to happen, folks.” Trump’s remarks at a community college on Monday marked the unveiling of the next phase of his administration’s plan to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic, now claiming the lives of 100 Americans a day through overdoses of prescription opioid pills, fentanyl and heroin.
The plan calls for opioid prescriptions to be reduced by one-third within three years, partly by encouraging physicians to change their behavior. It seeks guaranteed access to overdose-reversal drug naloxone and Justice Department filing of death-penalty cases against drug traffickers. Trump said concerns about fentanyl and heroin supported his policies seeking to extend a barrier on the southern border and punish cities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. White House aides said the proposal on the death penalty was focused only “very specific high-level cases” and that the administration was more interested in seeing new laws providing mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl dealers. The plan backs expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, though it doesn’t come with a price tag. Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as slow, saying they want a specific commitment for funds. “This is not a crisis that we can solve just by being tougher on drug dealers,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), “We need presidential leadership in pushing for the significant additional funding that it will ultimately take.”