President Donald Trump revealed his plan Monday for combating the country’s opioid crisis during a speech in New Hampshire.
The national broadcast touched on several points to fix the issue, including the death penalty to drug dealers who supply drugs that cause a death, attempting to lower the costs of prescription drugs, supply overdose reversing drugs to schools and combating sanctuary cities.
In 2016, more than 64,000 people died due to an overdose caused by an opioid. Opioid-related deaths have been rising every year, seeing their sharpest increase two years ago, according to information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A big tool that emergency responders in Santa Clarita have been using is Narcan, a nasal overdose reversal drug. During Trump’s speech Mike Kelly, president of Adapt Pharma who makes Narcan, promised to give 40,000 doses of the spray to american universities.
“I think Narcan is a life-saving miracle drug,” said Cary Quashen, director of Henry Mayo’s Behavioral Health Unit. “If all first responders have it, we could save so many lives. Accidental overdose is the biggest killer.”
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station received training in how to use Narcan back in August. Many times a deputy is the first on scene to an overdose or medical emergency, having training to use Narcan allows the deputy to administer life-saving treatment, according to a news release from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Trump made a call to strengthen the punishment for drug dealers who supply drugs that caused a fatal overdose. The president claimed punishments should be similar to that of murder in the first degree, life in prison or the death penalty.
Quashen stopped short of calling for it to be a capital crime, but understood the federal call for tougher sentencing, which is a reversal of recent trends in California. In 2014, California voters moved to lessen the sentencing for drug crimes by approving Proposition 47.
“We need to tighten up on drug dealers,” Quashen explained. “Knowing that heroin is one of the most addictive drugs out there and dealers are responsible for that. We need to make penalties worse — I don’t know about the death penalty, but definitely stronger.”
One-in-six Americans will deal with some form of substance abuse, according to Quashen. The White House has begun to call it the crisis next door, creating a website by the same name where people can share their personal stories dealing with opioids.
Education and making it easier to access treatment were the two areas Quashen said are the biggest ways to stop the crisis. Trump made it clear he wished to remove a restriction on medicaid that prevented from paying for treatment in facilities that have more than 16 beds.
“At the end of the day not one thing is gonna work. It’s requires a lot of everything,” told Quashen. “Everyone is affected by this, it makes us all responsible to do something to help.”