The opioid epidemic won’t be solved overnight, but President Donald Trump told attendees of the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on Wednesday in Atlanta that “there is just nothing that is going to stop us,” and he pledged his administration’s full support for the wide range of treatment providers and officials in attendance.
“You are the first responders who bring patients back to life,” Trump said. “You are the law enforcement officers who bring drug traffickers to justice. You are the doctors, nurses and counselors who give struggling citizens the hope, solace and strength to build a brighter and brighter future. You are the families and faith communities who help thousands of Americans overcome addiction for a new life of freedom. My administration is deploying every resource at our disposal to empower you, support you and fight right by your side.”
President Trump became the third president and second sitting president to address the Rx Summit, joining President Barack Obama in 2016 and President Bill Clinton in 2018. He was joined on stage by First Lady Melania Trump, who made the first appearance by a first lady in the summit’s eight-year history.
Between messages of encouragement for attendees, the president outlined his administration’s initiatives to combat the opioid crisis. Among them, H.R. 6, also known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, the wide-ranging legislative package Trump signed in October. The president also noted that $90 million in federal dollars was allocated for the prevention of youth substance abuse and distribution of naloxone was expanded by 1 million units.
Trump also highlighted:
- The CRIB Act, which expands treatment for mothers and babies who are born physically dependent on opioids
- Initiatives for veterans to reduce opioid prescribing and provide greater flexibility in finding physicians
- The First Step Act, which has expanded drug treatment for federal inmates
- His administration’s efforts to reduce the oversupply of prescription drugs and to drive down drug prices. “We are holding Big Pharma accountable,” he said. “They should be accountable. They didn’t give to my campaign. I don’t want their money. They gave to a lot of other campaigns, and that’s a problem. I couldn’t care less. They’ve got to do what’s right.”
Border security was covered at length, as Trump said his administration has embarked on an “unprecedented effort to shut down online criminal networks, crack down on illegal international shipments, and stop the deadly flow of drugs into” the United States. Tactics have included the addition of border patrol personnel, “hundreds of millions of dollars” of high-level equipment, nearly 400 miles of border wall Trump expects to be completed by the end of 2020, and an increase in what the president called “the greatest equipment in the world”: drug-detecting dogs.
Drug overdose deaths declined by 3.2% from September 2017 to September 2018, according to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump on Tuesday pointed to significant drops in states hit hardest by the epidemic, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The president closed his address by imploring attendees to keep up their efforts and continue their progress.
“Our greatest resource in the fight against drugs is the heart, the might and the soul of the American people,” Trump said. “We will prevail because of the courage, commitment and compassion of heroes like all of you in this room today. You’re incredible people. You’re America’s true source of strength. Let us resolve that together we will support, cherish and care for our fellow citizens through every step and every challenge on their road to recovery.”
Photo credit: Pierce Harman Photography