President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday that the U.S. would “win” the battle against the heroin and opioid plague, but he stopped short of declaring a national emergency as his handpicked commission had recommended.
Trump spoke at an event he had billed as a “major briefing” on the opioid crisis during a two-week “working vacation” at his private golf club in New Jersey. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump were among the attendees.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” the president said at his golf club in Bedminster. “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.”
He said federal drug prosecutions had dropped but promised he would “be bringing them up rapidly.”
Last week, the presidential opioid commission, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, urged Trump to “declare a national emergency” and noted that “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
It recommended, among other things, expanding treatment facilities across the country, educating and equipping doctors about the proper way to prescribe pain medication, and equipping all police officers with the anti-overdose remedy Naloxone.
Trump did not address any of the recommendations. Instead, the president repeated that his administration was “very, very tough on the Southern border, where much of this comes in.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015, the latest year for which data are available, and estimates show the death rate has continued rising.
But a new University of Virginia study released Monday concluded the mortality rates were 24 percent higher for opioids and 22 percent higher for heroin than had been previously reported.
Some information for this report came from AP.