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Trump in NH: 'We will raise a drug-free generation of American children'

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2018 9:16PM
Jeanne Moser of East Kingston, who lost her son Adam to a drug overdose, is greeted by President Donald Trump at Manchester Community College on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — President Donald Trump pulled back the curtain on a plan to combat opioid drug addiction that includes stiffer penalties for drug dealers — including the death penalty “where it’s appropriate under current law” — during an appearance in New Hampshire on Monday.

“This scourge of drug addiction in America will stop,” said Trump. “It will stop. Failure is not an option. We will raise a drug-free generation of American children.”

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were at Manchester Community College with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several cabinet members to unveil the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse (For a photo gallery of the president's visit, click here).

“We have to get tough on these people,” said Trump. “These are terrible people, and that toughness includes the death penalty. Whether you are a dealer or doctor or trafficker or a manufacturer, if you break the law and illegally peddle these deadly poisons, we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will hold you accountable.”

During a conference call with reporters Sunday night, senior White House officials referred all questions seeking examples of cases warranting the death penalty to the Department of Justice.

“This isn’t about nice anymore,” said Trump. “This isn’t about let’s get everybody and have dinners, and let’s have everybody go to a Blue Ribbon committees and everybody gets a medal for talking and doing nothing. 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. I want to win this battle. I don’t want to leave at the end of seven years and have this problem.”

The Trump administration wants to cut opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years. Its “Safer Prescribing Plan” offers states incentives to take part in a national database monitoring opioid prescriptions. Such a program, officials said, helps identify individuals requesting many prescriptions.

“Defeating this epidemic will require the commitment of every state, local, and federal agency,” said Trump. “Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis.”

The President also visited Manchester Central Fire Station on Merrimack Street, the birthplace of the city’s Safe Station initiative, replicated in communities around the country.

The President’s plan includes three main pieces: reducing the over-prescription of, and demand for, opioids; cutting off the supply of illegal drugs inside the U.S. and crossing the country’s borders; and increasing the number of treatment and recovery services available.

‘We are back’

Monday marked the first time Trump and the first lady have traveled to New Hampshire since attending a rally at the SNHU Arena on Nov. 7, 2016, the night before the general election.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time, and it all started right here in New Hampshire, because I see what you’re going through,” said Trump. “About as bad as there is anywhere in the country. And I said I’d be back, and we are back — and we’re pouring a lot of money and a lot of talent into this horrible problem. And we pledge to honor the memory of those you lost with action and determination and resolve.”

Trump convened an opioid commission last year, which introduced its final recommendations on how to curb the epidemic on Nov. 1.

According to Andrew Bremberg, the White House’s director of the Domestic Policy Council, the Opioid Initiative will “expand access to evidence-based addiction treatment in every state, particularly medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, and seek legislative changes to the law prohibiting Medicaid from reimbursing residential treatment at certain facilities with more than 16 beds.”

The plan also provides addiction treatment to service members, veterans and their families eligible for health care through the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.

The President also called for Congress to pass legislation reducing the threshold amount of drugs that must be present before mandatory minimum sentences are triggered for traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids.

Following Monday’s presidential visit, cabinet officials were deployed across more than 15 states to “provide and address solutions to this nationwide crisis,” according to a White House source.

Victims’ parents invited

The President’s appearance at MCC was an invitation-only event, with over 250 community members, law enforcement officials, first responders and local families affected by the opioid crisis in attendance.

Among the state and local officials in the audience were Gov. Chris Sununu, Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan and Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

East Kingston’s Jim and Jeanne Moser were among those invited to attend, part of a small contingent of families who have lost someone to the opioid crisis. Their son Adam. 27, died from an apparent fentanyl overdose in Portsmouth in September 2015. His death inspired the couple to launch the “Zero Left” campaign, which advocates for prescription safety.

The Mosers traveled to Washington last October to attend Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a nationwide health emergency.

Adam, an Exeter High School football alumni, earned a degree in actuarial science from Temple University and was known for his role as a fisherman on the National Geographic Channel’s reality show “Wicked Tuna.”

“Adam was our oldest son,” said Moser. “He was a great kid. He was a smart kid. He was the kind of kid that made you feel really good about yourself. You give him five minutes; you really liked him. He just made a bad choice one night. As smart as he was, he found his way into our kitchen cabinet. And, sadly, the rest is history. He got hooked on it.

He’s been gone for two-and-a-half years, and we miss him every day.”

Also in the audience was Susan Markievitz, a mother from Derry who lost her son Chad to a heroin overdose almost four years ago.

Mayor talks to Trump

White House officials said Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter — all Democrats — were invited, though none attended, citing votes scheduled to occur in Washington.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, a registered Democrat, joined Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, state GOP Chair Jeanie Forrester, and Adjutant General David Mikolaities of the New Hampshire National Guard in welcoming Trump and the first lady as they disembarked from Air Force One.

“I used this opportunity to urge the President to deliver much-needed funding for prevention, treatment and recovery services for substance use disorder and to prioritize funding for New Hampshire, which has been among the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic,” said Criag. “As I told the President today, it’s up to all of us to rise above politics and work together to bring relief to families being devastated by the opioid epidemic.”

“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,” said Sununu. “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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 there were more than 63,600 overdose deaths in the United States, including 42,249 that involved an opioid (66.4 percent). That’s an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths each day.

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors steadily increased from 112 million prescriptions in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012, according to the market research firm IMS Health.

Lawrence 'primary' source

Trump said "ending sanctuary cities" is critical to stopping the opioid addiction crisis.

“According to a recent Dartmouth study, the sanctuary city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, is one of the primary sources of fentanyl in six New Hampshire counties,” said Trump. “ICE recently arrested 15 MS-13 gang members — these are not good people, folks. OK? These are bad, bad people. They don’t use guns. They’d rather use knives because it’s more painful and it takes longer.”

The President’s plan calls for the launch of a nationwide education campaign to raise public awareness on the dangers of opioid misuse, and supports conducting research to identify alternative therapies and non-addictive pain management to prevent addiction — including research to potentially identify a vaccine to prevent opioid addiction.

Trump’s plan would also expand treatment, though how this portion of the proposal will be funded by the administration remains yet to be determined. On Sunday, a senior White House official was unable to provide a dollar amount for the expanded treatment, saying the White House was “negotiating with Congress” on specific allocations, and expects “more money will be allocated for treatments.”

Monday’s remarks contained no announcement from Trump on plans to change the federal funding formula, something Sununu and members of the state’s congressional delegation have been requesting for months. Shaheen and Hassan co-sponsored the Targeted Opioid Formula Act last November, which would prioritize sending federal grants to states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.

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