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NH politicians react to President's visit

March 20. 2018 10:25AM
Gov. Chris Sununu sits with his father, former Gov. John H. Sununu as he gestures to President Trump at Manchester Community College on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

A number of politicians issued statements after President Trump delivered remarks at Manchester Community College regarding the opioid epidemic.

• Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH: “It’s my hope that today’s announcement means the Trump administration is going to finally prioritize the opioid crisis that continues to devastate families all across New Hampshire,” said Shaheen. “I support many of the policies that the President put forward in a draft plan prior to his speech, much of which was recommended by the President’s opioid commission last year. What’s been missing is follow through. We need the President to commit to providing the resources necessary to win this fight. Today, Congress is finalizing a government funding bill that embodies a bipartisan agreement to increase funding to those on the front lines of this crisis. But, that’s only a first step. President Trump must lead a national effort. If he does that, there will be broad bipartisan support.”

• Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH: “The proposal the President discussed today in Manchester includes important policies to help strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts — including many policies that I have long supported and a number that I have already introduced legislation to implement. I’m particularly glad that the proposal focuses on reducing the overprescribing of opioids, boosting treatment capacity, and cracking down on the illicit flow of fentanyl and other substances through our mail. However, in November, the White House opioid commission also released a strong plan, most of which hasn’t been acted on yet, and it is critical that we see actual follow-through on this proposal.

“While there are many strong components of this proposal, this is not a crisis that we can solve just by being tougher on drug dealers — although we need to do that — and I am concerned that the President does not seem to fully appreciate that we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis. I am also concerned that the President has not yet forcefully advocated for the robust federal investment it will take to help combat this crisis. The $6 billion in opioid funding I worked to secure in the budget agreement is an important step, but we need presidential leadership in pushing for the significant additional funding that it will ultimately take to help stem — and ultimately reverse — the tide of this epidemic.”

• U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH: “Today the President once again showed that he’s willing to talk about the opioid epidemic but the real test will be if he is able to put action to his words,” said Kuster. “The opioid proposal outlined by the White House includes provisions that have been advocated by the Bipartisan Congressional Heroin Task Force as well as the President’s own opioid commission and it’s long overdue that the President showed leadership in working with Congress to put these proposals into action. It’s also critical that resources be targeted to states that have been the hardest hit by the crisis and I urge the President to direct the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration to improve its formula for opioid funding distribution.

“I have serious concerns with some aspects of President Trump’s proposal and rhetoric. The constant message I hear in New Hampshire from law enforcement, treatment providers, the recovery community, and others is that we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis. The Administration should focus on the areas where there is bipartisan support and work with both Republicans and Democrats for the benefit of the Granite State and communities across the country. New Hampshire has been hard-hit by substance use disorder but our resilient people and innovative approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic can help lead our state and the entire country toward a better future. I hope the President learned from what he saw in New Hampshire today and will commit to working in a productive manner to stem the spread of addiction.”

• U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH: “We are over a year into the Trump presidency, and the thousands of Granite Staters who are working tirelessly to turn the tide on our state's raging opioid crisis are still waiting for a federal response that matches the scope of this deadly epidemic. New Hampshire has the third highest drug overdose death rate in the US. The fact is, President Trump has spent the last year dithering on how to respond to this crisis and ignoring the recommendations of his own panel. Patrick Kennedy, one of the six members on the president’s bipartisan opioid commission, called the administration’s efforts to address the crisis ‘tantamount to reshuffling the chairs on the Titanic,’ ‘a sham’, and a ‘charade.’

“Precious lives have been lost here in New Hampshire while the president and the inexperienced team of political operatives he chose to address this public health crisis delayed acting on expert advice. Meanwhile, President Trump took counterproductive actions like trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and kick an estimated 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder off their coverage, and proposing a 95% cut to the White House's drug control office, which is charged with coordinating the federal response to this crisis.

“Now, President Trump is coming to our state to propose the death penalty as a solution to this epidemic. Enough of our neighbors and family members caught in the cycle of addiction have already died. We cannot jail or kill our way out of this crisis—we need to increase access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services. Serenity Place in Manchester declared bankruptcy just a few months ago because they didn’t have the resources to treat the high number of patients referred through the Safe Station program where President Trump held a photo-op today.

“I have been shocked by this administration’s utter unwillingness to treat this crisis with the urgency it requires. New Hampshire treatment and recovery centers have waited long enough. New Hampshire needs funding, not photo-ops.”

• Gov. Chris Sununu: “Today, the President saw first-hand the groundbreaking work New Hampshire is doing to combat the opioid crisis,” Sununu said. “I was joined by Mayor Joyce Craig and General Mikolaities on the tarmac at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport to greet the President, where Mayor Craig and I stressed the need for adequate federal funding as we tackle this crisis head-on. As governor, I will always take the opportunity to advocate for our state, and today New Hampshire’s leaders showed the President our unique programs, which have the ability to serve as a model of best practice across this country. We were one of the first states into this crisis, but I have no doubt that we will be the first state out of it.”

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