“FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON SPEAKS TO THE OPIATE CRISIS ISSUES”
By Mark A. York (April 18, 2018)
(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Former President Bill Clinton pulled no punches as he focused directly and commented on how the opioid epidemic “creeps into every nook and cranny of our country” and needs to be addressed as both a huge national problem and a community-by-community tragedy, adding “this can rob our country of the future.”
President Clinton was the keynote speaker at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, which drew more than 3,000 experts in fields such as addiction treatment, law enforcement and medicine from across the country recently in Atlanta. He shared his own personal experiences as well as voicing his opinions on opioid solutions and strategies that work and the many challenges facing the country in the future.
He was very clear when stating that there’s no room for stigma in the face of such an urgent and widespread problem. Nearly every family is touched by the issue — including his. Not only does he have family members who have struggled with drug abuse, he said at least five close friends have lost children and family members to overdoses, including two native Arkansans, first-generation immigrants from India and Kosovo and African-American preachers. This is the common thread in the opioid crisis fabric, there is no social or demographic group that is exempt from the epidemic.
“Nobody gets out of this for free,” which seems to be where most of the finger pointing and blame game issue of the highest importance. The checkbook to pull the country out of this national opiate epidemic will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars and even then, the costs of social and economic damage to date, will never be recovered.
From 2000 to 2016, government research data shows that more than 600,000 people died from drug overdoses — nearly 64,000 in 2016 alone. Kentucky, one of the nation’s hardest-hit states, lost more than 1,400 people to drug overdoses that year.
The former president referred to the work done by his Clinton Foundation, who’ve provided both training and resources to communities fighting addiction and makes the opioid antidote naloxone more available to the public at a low cost.
He discussed programs elsewhere that he believes work well, including a unique medical system in eastern Pennsylvania where no doctors prescribe opioids. When a patient comes in who may legitimately need the painkillers, a panel headed by a highly educated pharmacist looks at that option as well as other alternatives. The panel does all the opioid prescribing, he said, and opioid prescriptions have dropped dramatically.
Clinton praised community health centers, local county health units and faith based community groups who are spearheading efforts in in caring for people struggling with addiction. He said grass roots solutions often work best because each place is different, and its residents know it best.
He also added the United States as a whole faces many challenges, including the rise of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is making its way “into the bloodstream of America” from China. He said the United States “ought to get the Chinese to help us” and must also do more to stop the heroin flowing in from Mexico. Many others in government have directed attention to the Chinese government for help, but to date, there has been very limited assistance from China on this.
He further stated that the country must do more to reduce demand for drugs. And that will mean addressing issues at the root of addiction, such as hopelessness and poverty. Many overdose victims, he said, are ultimately “dying of a broken heart.” How treatment programs can be more widely accepted as well as becoming approved as a disease treatment versus a “drug addict” problem, remains to be seen.
“The roots of this are deep in our soul,” Clinton said. “You know it and I know it.”
During the Clinton years in office, he enacted various drug control programs and strategies which primarily focused on drug abuse prevention, drug use education, drug treatment and enforcement. Clinton White House archives, show he elevated the position of “drug czar” to a cabinet-level post, expanded drug courts, provided funding across the country and stepped up drug-related enforcement efforts. To support these programs and efforts, overall funding for anti-drug efforts rose from $12.2 billion in 1993 to $18.5 billion in 2000.
Although there were critics the time, many were determined to be politically motivated and more of a rhetorical attack on Bill Clinton politics as a whole. These included the 1994 report by the conservative Heritage Foundation titled, “How the Clinton Administration is Abandoning the War Against Drugs,” which falsely claimed Clinton’s “new direction will allow more cocaine, heroin and marijuana to reach American streets, and it will cut federal enforcement personnel.” Which simply furthered the now misguided correlation between marijuana use and hard drugs. The group also said one of the first announced goals of then-Attorney General Janet Reno was to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking and other related crimes, sentences the group argued “put teeth in drug enforcement.” This has been proven to be inaccurate and a distortion of the attempts to bring crime and punishment more in line with the times and how criminal sentencing were applied in lower economic areas of the country.
Clinton said today’s fight against drugs must be a bipartisan effort that pulls together Americans from all parts of the political spectrum. Although this would be a sincere effort to bring political parties together to address a problem that is now firmly implanted across the United States.
“We can do this. And it will be really good for us, because it’s about time we did something together again,” he said. “Last time I checked, anytime we did anything together, we never lost.” Mr. Clinton’s stance on a joint effort to address the opioid crisis seems genuine, but based on the many views within the current DC political world, beginning with President Trump and his view that the problem is drug users versus taking a step back view that society itself along with Big Pharma are accountable for the current opiate epidemic.
What the solutions are for solving the Opioid Crisis across the country remain to be seen and as stated by President Clinton “nobody gets out for free.”