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Trump to release opioid plan Monday that includes death penalty
President Trump on Monday will release a plan to combat the opioid epidemic that includes the controversial idea of using the death penalty for some drug traffickers.
Trump will announce the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse during his first visit as president to New Hampshire, a state the opioid epidemic has hit hard and where 2016 presidential candidates, including Trump, discussed the issue of addiction at length.
The plan includes a mix of efforts that advocates have been supportive of in the past, such as expanding access to the gold standard of treatment for an opioid addiction and ensuring first responders are equipped with an opioid overdose reversal drug.
It also includes law enforcement measures, and addiction advocates have been urging the administration and lawmakers to steer away from a war-on-drugs approach they say hasn't worked in the past.
"The opioid crisis is viewed by us at the White House as a nonpartisan problem searching for bipartisan solutions, and the Trump administration remains committed to fighting this epidemic from all fronts," Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said on a call with reporters Sunday.
The law enforcement measures include allowing the Department of Justice to seek the death penalty for some drug dealers "where appropriate under current law," a move that faces high hurdles. A senior White House official declined to specify examples of those cases and referred reporters to the Department of Justice.
The initiative details actions the administration can do on its own, while also calling on Congress to pass certain measures that the administration says could help combat the epidemic that's killing more people per year across the country than traffic accidents.
The plan includes three main elements: reducing the demand and overprescription of opioids, cutting off the supply of illegal drugs and increasing treatment and recovery services.
The administration aims to cut opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years by implementing a "Safer Prescribing Plan." This includes incentivizing states to move to a national database monitoring opioid prescriptions to help flag people requesting numerous prescriptions.
A DOJ official wrote in an email that "Under current law, the federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offenses - for example through violations of the 'drug kingpin' provisions in 18 USC 3591(b) and 21 USC 848(e)."
Trump will also call on Congress to pass legislation reducing the threshold amount of drugs sold that are required to invoke mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers "who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids that are lethal in trace amounts."
The president will also urge Congress to change a decades-old rule that greatly restricts Medicaid from fund residential treatment in certain facilities for those with an opioid addiction, a move that could cost billions of dollars.
Trump convened an opioid commission last year, which introduced its final recommendations on how to curb the epidemic Nov. 1. In late October, the administration declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, a move it extended another 90 days in mid-January. Advocates have expressed frustration that it hadn't lead to many concrete changes.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are hammering out legislation to combat the opioid epidemic. The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to bring a package to the House floor by Memorial Day weekend, and a bipartisan group of senators has introduced a follow-up to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed in 2016, dubbed "CARA 2.0."
- Updated at 10:27 a.m.