The opioid crisis is the challenge of this generation
Every generation of Americans faces a defining challenge. Our founding generation, when faced with a fundamental choice, chose independence — knowing full well the potential cost. World War II’s “Greatest Generation,” with democracy as their cause, fought to defend freedom across continents and liberated the world. Time and time again, the same story repeats — when faced with a generational challenge, the American people stand up and win.
However, the challenges of each generation aren’t always announced by declarations of war or attacks from foreign lands. Sometimes they creep up and hide in the shadows, staying unnoticed until their damage becomes too clear to ignore. Such is the case now.
The opioid crisis truly is a crisis in every sense of the word. Each day, over 130 people die within our borders due to the effects of an opioid overdose — that’s a 9/11-size tragedy happening every 23 days. Prescription pain relievers, heroin, and powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl ravage the lives of Americans across the nation. From the richest of cities to the poorest of river valleys, the carnage caused by opioid addiction knows no bounds.
No one can say there is a single be-all, end-all solution to this problem. But what can be said is that the steps the Trump administration has taken toward addressing the problem have been in the right direction.
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, the number of deaths resulting from drug overdoses is finally on the decline, reversing the trend that has characterized past years. This is something every conscientious American can stand behind, regardless of political affiliation.
The fact that the crisis transcends political affiliation has allowed the administration to act in unprecedented ways. In the early days of his presidency, President Donald Trump declared a nationwide public health emergency to allocate much needed resources toward addressing the epidemic. Bipartisan legislation such as the SUPPORT for Patients and Community Act made medical treatment for opioid addiction more available and accessible while getting tough on some of the most damaging drugs flooding our streets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a partnership with Health and Human Services to support rural communities in their war against opioid abuse and, in a crackdown on opioid fraud, the Justice Department charged over 400 medical professionals prescribing opioids unnecessarily to struggling addicts.
However, in looking at my home state of New Hampshire as an example, it’s clear that there’s still a long way to go.
New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in the nation. 2017 data reveals that opioids accounted for 34 deaths per 100,000 persons — more than twice the national average. The biggest killer in this bunch was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that for many years flooded into the United States from manufacturers and distributors based in China. At the G-20 Summit, China agreed to control its production of fentanyl and clamp down on its illicit distribution to the United States. But even if President Xi makes good on his promises, and not a single ounce of new fentanyl enters into our country, it would make little difference to those already struggling with addiction — there’s already so much here, its ubiquity and effects are hard to stop.
Allegations of overprescription by medical professionals and poor ethical standards by drug manufacturers, lack of support for individuals struggling with opioid use disorder and an overarching stigma causing those afflicted to hide their disease instead of seek help make this issue truly a challenge for this generation. There is no one solution. However, some of the state level leadership on this issue moves in the right direction and should serve as a model for other states battling this plague.
Governor Sununu realizes the importance of gaining a full understanding of the opioid epidemic in his state in order to form better solutions. Through a recent initiative to analyze data on insurance claims, officials in the state will be able to better predict the future problems arising from opioids and account for them before they reach uncontrollable proportions. In a chaotic scenario, a data-driven approach is one of the only sure ways to know where attention needs to be directed to stop further problems before they start.
From a treatment perspective, “recovery friendly” workplaces help support struggling addicts and their families on the road to recovery. Employers operating under this model notify employees of opioid recovery resources available to them to help increase accessibility of care and reduce the stigma of speaking out about addiction in public.
These are simple ideas that elected officials in my home state are enacting to help the people of New Hampshire address a monstrous problem. We need to figure out which solutions actually work and obtain the resources, through State Opioid Response grants and the like, to make proven solutions accessible to all.
This problem goes beyond politics — and as career politicians in Washington continue to make spectacles over useless committee hearings and smile pretty for the cameras, they need to remember why they are there. Any elected official from a state like New Hampshire where the opioid crisis causes very real pain to families every day needs to act.
Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter to me — if you can’t deliver on an issue so important your constituents, no matter what office you hold, it may be time to reconsider your career choice and politely make room for someone who can.
Corey R. Lewandowski is President Trump’s former campaign manager. He is a senior adviser the Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence‘s political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of the book, “Trump’s Enemies,” and of “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski_.