The White House’s Indifference To America’s Opioid Crisis Is Costing Lives

During Trump's 17-day vacation this month alone, more than 2,400 Americans will die from a drug overdose.
08/10/2017 01:52 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2017

The president is failing the country. There is an opioid epidemic ravaging our communities and claiming American lives daily, but despite Donald Trump promising on the campaign trail to protect the victims, the White House has failed to take action. Families who are desperate for help are finding that none is coming from the White House. People are dying as a result, and in the absence of action from the White House, Congress should act in a bipartisan fashion to address this epidemic immediately.

In fact, nearly eight months into his first term, Trump has arguably tried to make things worse.  His budget proposal called for an additional $610 billion in cuts from Medicaid over the next decade, despite the fact that Medicaid is the largest payer for opioid treatment in the U.S. Those cuts are on top of what Republicans proposed in their effort to repeal Obamacare, the so-called American Health Care Act. The AHCA called for $839 billion in Medicaid cuts, which would have left 14 million people without insurance. In total, Trump has backed $1.4 trillion in Medicaid cuts which would have left millions without insurance and many treatment programs without funding. Meanwhile, Trumpcare pushed tax cuts for the rich.

Meanwhile, Trump is also ignoring the recommendations of his own opioid commission. This comes after he ignored the advice of public health officials who warned “at best” it would be a redundant waste of time.  And after this commission twice failed to meet self-imposed deadlines for crafting a plan to curb the epidemic. 

It is hard to overstate the incredible cost of Trump’s delays. According to the commission’s own report, approximately 142 Americans die every day because of drug overdoses. During his 17-day vacation this month alone, more than 2,400 Americans will die from a drug overdose. Half a million people have died in the last 15 years, and the number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled since 1999

And there’s no slowing down of the availability of the drugs: one in every three American adults was prescribed an opioid drug in 2015. And in many cases, the people hit hardest by the opioid crisis are the very ones who voted for Trump and his promises in the first place.

That’s not all. 

Trump’s considered a 95 percent cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the agency that was supposed to be leading the charge to combat opioid addiction and other drug epidemics. That cut would have defunded the agency’s high-intensity drug-trafficking program and its drug-free communities support program. 

At his big press announcement on the crisis, Trump told reporters: “Maybe by talking to youth and telling them ‘no good, really bad for you’ … if they don’t start, it will never be a problem.”

The tone-deaf rhetoric and ignorant sentiment was the latest sign that Trump’s administration is abandoning treatment as a means to curbing the epidemic. Access to treatment is one of the top ways to curb the rising opioid crisis experts believe, combined with limiting access to the drugs and other policies that would stop younger generations from becoming addicted. Vox noted that experts are in wide agreement about these goals but Trump is in typical fashion sticking his head in the sand.   

The message to victims, their friends, and their families is clear: President Trump does not intend to help your loved ones overcome this disease. People are dying because of Trump’s inaction and failures, and it’s not a stretch to suggest that his proposals would actually make things worse. 

It’s long past time for action. Draconian budget cuts and empty rhetoric isn’t going to curb this epidemic, it’s just costing lives. The country can’t afford to stay the course, and Congress should do what Trump has proven incapable of – acting to save the country from this epidemic that’s ravaging our communities.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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