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Trump: Fighting The Opioid Epidemic

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President Trump delivered remarks at the White House last week, on the fight against the nation’s opiod epidemic.

Trump was Monday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”. Here are his words:

“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding $1.8 billion in new grant money to fight the opioid epidemic — something we’ve had quite a bit of success on and we’re continuing. And I think you’ll be amazed at the results. We’ve been doing this from pretty much the beginning, but really emphasis over the last year and a half.

These funds will be delivered to the communities where the help is most needed.

Joining us this afternoon is the Secretary of HHS, Alex Azar; Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and some other of our friends in the room that have been so instrumental. We’ll be introducing them in a little while. Thank you both for your devotion, in particular, to building a drug-free future for our nation.

We’re on our way; it sounds like a big statement. And it’s a problem that every country is having, or most countries, certainly. But it’s something that I saw firsthand during the campaign, and I couldn’t believe when I looked at certain states, in particular, how bad it was. We want a safe and healthy future for every American family. That’s what I said we’d do and that’s what we’re in the process of doing.

From reforming the way we treat kidney disease, to increasing price transparency, ending the HIV epidemic — that’s an incredible thing; we think within a period of 10 years, Alex, we will have that in quite good shape. We think maybe ended. If you would’ve said, “Ending the HIV epidemic within 10 years,” people wouldn’t have known what you were even talking about if we would’ve said it two years ago. But we’re well on our way.

And reducing high drug prices — which is something that my administration is very focused on. And we’ve had the best year we’ve had in over 51 years. We actually brought drug pricing down this year — this last year. First time that’s happened in 51 years.

So my administration is focused on confronting the healthcare, and healthcare challenges, and American suffering that other administrations, frankly, have forgotten. We’re doing things that other administrations did not focus on at all. In this effort, nothing is more important than defeating the opioid and addiction crisis.

The $1.8 billion in funds we’re awarding today will be distributed to all 50 states through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s very exciting. They’ll be used to increase access to medication and medication-assisted treatment and mental health resources, which are critical for ending homelessness and getting people the help they deserve. So many problems are caused by this problem.

These grants will also support state and local governments in obtaining high-quality, comprehensive data so that we can help the most people and save the most lives, which is what we’re doing.

My administration is determined to use every resource at our disposal to smash the grip of addiction. In October 2017, my administration declared a nationwide public health emergency, directing agencies to use every resource in their arsenal to overcome the deadly plague of opioid abuse.

Since then, we’ve secured a record $6 billion in new funding to respond to this emergency. Last year, we provided $90 million to prevent youth substance abuse, and I signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act — the largest-ever legislative effort to address a drug crisis in our nation’s history.

By the end of this month, HHS will have awarded a record $9 billion to expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services to states and local communities during my administration. And they’re doing a great job locally when they get the funds. They didn’t have the money; they didn’t have the funds. But some of the states have done an incredible job once they got the funds. And great results.

We passed the CRIB Act, which allows Medicaid to help mothers and their babies, who are born physically dependent on opioids, by covering their care in residential pediatric recovery facilities.

To break the cycle of addiction, we must prevent young Americans from trying drugs in the first place. For this reason, we launched a nationwide public ad campaign to educate young people about the dangers of misusing prescription opioids. This campaign has already reached 58 percent of young adults.

And you won’t see the results of this for a couple of years — two, three, four years — but the results are going to be there. They’re really powerful ads. So you won’t see it quickly, but people watching it — young people watching it, we’re putting them on the right programming, I think. But young people watching these ads and what happens to people very descriptively, I think they’re not going to be using drugs so easily. You’ll see the results in the future.

To cut off the supply of ultra-lethal narcotics at the source, my administration has also prioritized stopping the influx of fentanyl from China.

And just over the last week, I want to thank Mexico, the Mexican government, their great President of Mexico, for helping us. They had a record catch a week ago of fentanyl that came in from China.

And, as you know, we have 26,000 Mexico troops on our border. And they’re also bringing their numbers way down. It’s — we were with the Commissioner a little while ago, the Secretary, and it’s down over 50 percent from last year. So they’re really making a lot of progress. But the Mexican government has been great. So we have 26,000 soldiers from Mexico guarding our border.

Now, if we’d have the same help from the Democrats, we could get legislation passed so easily, so quickly, that we wouldn’t even need that kind of help from Mexico. But we really do appreciate it. First time that’s ever happened where Mexico has helped us at the border. And they’re helping us in a very big way. Far bigger than anybody thought even possible.

We’ve dramatically stepped up enforcement actions across the board, seizing more than 21,000 kilograms of heroin and nearly 8,000 kilograms of fentanyl since the beginning of 2011 [2017]. And the biggest one was last week.

In 2018, our High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program disrupted or dismantled almost 3,000 drug trafficking organizations. During that operation, the Department of Justice seized enough fentanyl to kill over 100,000 Americans. And that’s not much, if you look; it’s a little bit. This much can kill 100,000 people. It’s — it’s terrible. It’s incredible. And we’re getting a lot of it stopped.

The Department is prosecuting more fentanyl traffickers than ever before — we’ve never prosecuted so many, and we’re going for the maximum penalty, which is a long time — and targeting seizures in areas most impacted by the crisis.

As a result of our aggressive efforts at every level of government, last year, America experienced the first nationwide decline in drug overdose deaths in nearly three decades. So that one is 30 years. So we’ve brought down drug prices for prescription drugs; that’s over 50 years. And the overdose deaths in nearly three decades. That’s something.

In the last two years, overdose deaths have fallen by 24 percent in Ohio, 24 percent in Pennsylvania, 8 percent in West Virginia, 20 percent in Iowa, 16 percent in Kentucky, and 10 percent in New Hampshire — all areas that have incredible problems with exactly what we’re talking about.

But the battle has only just begun. We must continue fighting side-by-side to stop the menace once and for all. Together, we’ll save thousands and thousands of our fellow Americans and the families of so many people.

We’ll not rest until every American child can grow up free of the menace of drugs, empowered to realize their full and unlimited potential. So many lives are stopped cold by drugs, whether it’s death or just a ruined life. Because, in many cases, you have ruined lives because of drugs. They never recover. They never recover.

And now I’d like to ask Secretary Azar to say a few words about the new funding. It’s a record number. You add it all together and people never thought they’d see a thing like this, but we’re making tremendous headway and I want to thank everybody with me today.

And, Secretary, if you could say a few words. Thank you. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY AZAR: So thank you, Mr. President, for your dedication to this challenge. As you mentioned today, HHS is dispersing $1.8 billion in grants to help states and local communities combat our nation’s crisis of opioid addiction and overdose.

That includes $932 million in grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration led by Dr. Ellen McCance-Katz to provide flexible funding for state governments to support prevention treatment and recovery services in ways that meet their state’s needs. That can mean everything from expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment in criminal justice settings, or in rural areas via telemedicine, to youth-focused, community-based prevention efforts, recovery supports like employment coaching, and support for the distribution of naloxone.

We’re also releasing the first round of $900 million in grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led by Dr. Robert Redfield. This money will help states and local communities track overdose data and develop strategies that save lives.

Over the past two years, under President Trump’s leadership, the CDC has dramatically sped up its data reporting. When the President took office, overdose data nationally was only published with a 12-month lag. With the help of better reporting from local health departments, which we are now investing even further in, we’ve gotten that down to six months now.

That’s just one example of the results we’ve seen under this President. A year and a half ago, I joined him in Manchester, New Hampshire, to launch his opioid initiative. He called for action, and that’s what we’ve delivered. And I want to thank Kellyanne Conway; Jim Carroll, our drug czar; as well as my Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Brett Giroir, for their leadership of this whole-of-government effort.

The President said we would, quote, “prevent addiction by addressing the problem of overprescribing.” Since the President took office, the total amount of opioids prescribed is now down 31 percent. The President said we need to, quote, “make medically assisted treatment more available and affordable.” Our estimates suggest that in 2016, 921,000 Americans were receiving medication-assisted treatment, the gold standard for treating opioid addiction. In 2019, our estimates suggest we have 1.27 million Americans receiving this treatment, a 38 percent increase.

The President said, quote, “We’re going to [have to] make sure our first responders have access to lifesaving overdose-reversing drugs.” Since he took office, naloxone prescriptions have risen 378 percent.

When the President asked HHS to declare a public health emergency back in 2017, he promised that we’d see more approvals of waivers to help, quote, “unlock treatment for people in need.” They’d come “very, very fast,” he said. And since he took office, we’ve approved waivers for 21 states compared with four under the prior administration.

All of this work, as the President explained, is making a difference and saving lives. I look forward to continuing the fight with President Trump, our team at HHS, and all of our partners at the state and local level. So thank you again, Mr. President, for your leadership of this critical public health initiative.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great job. Thank you.

Admiral, would you like to say something? Please.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GIROIR: Well, thank you, Mr. President. We’ve combatted this on so many fronts, and I’m privileged to be the Assistant Secretary working in your administration and also leading opioids policy for the Secretary.

So much has been said, but I want to highlight one other piece of the equation. I’m a pediatric ICU doctor by training, and the attention that we have given to children who are born dependent on opioids and other drugs is really unprecedented and absolutely magnificent.

We now have better forms of treatment for these children. We can keep them with their mother so they can both recover together. So, across the board, we have treated this outbreak for what it is: It is a public health emergency.

We are treating it as public health emergency because it is. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. If you can hold your breath for 10 minutes, if I ask you to do so, that’s like telling a person to stop using the substances they have a disorder for without appropriate treatment and guidance.

So, again, we continue to move forward. And although deaths are down 5 percent — 5 percent in 2018 compared to 2017; unprecedented — we all know that our battle is just starting. We need to keep all the money flowing. We need to insist on evidence-based practices so that patients and their families get the best possible treatment. And certainly everyone in this administration has the commitment to do that.

Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Would you like to say something?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY MCCANCE-KATZ: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. I lead the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I’ve been an addiction psychiatrist for 25-plus years. And I’ve watched this epidemic evolve as a clinician.

I feel very proud to be able to work in an administration with the President, with Secretary Azar, and with my colleagues that you see here who all have such dedication to helping the American people with a deadly problem that we are making an improvement for in our communities. And we’ll continue to do that until we get this epidemic under control and until all Americans can be free of opioid addiction.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.

DIRECTOR REDFIELD CARROLL: When I first spoke with the President about taking this position, 18 months ago, we talked about the need to save American lives, and the President said, “Be relentless.” And he was talking not only in saving lives from the drugs that are pouring into our country from overseas, but we talked about the need to help people who are suffering from an addiction.

And I’ll never forget that conversation because you were focused on the lives of everyday Americans throughout our country, in urban areas, through rural areas, and said, “We bring a whole-of-government approach.” And as you heard today, that is certainly the approach that Secretary Azar has done; Kellyanne Conway with getting the message out; with the First Lady talking about children.

And so it’s a great honor to be here and to represent, as I go around the country, the views of this President that the most paramount thing that we can do is save American lives. And we’re doing that again yet today. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great job. You’ve done a great job.

So we’ve all done a very good job, and I think numbers that nobody would’ve believed when we started. But there’s a lot of dedication. I do want to thank Joe, and Kellyanne, and everybody for what you’ve done.

I want to thank the First Lady. This has been very important to her. She saw it very early on. I think we can say, Kellyanne — and it was a very, very important thing just envisioning the tremendous problems within families caused by not only opioids, but drugs generally. It’s a disaster. And it’s — as I said before, it’s all over the world. It’s a problem all over the world. But we’re hitting it very hard, and I think we’re hitting it very effectively — more effectively than anybody would have thought possible.

And we have some things happening and some things coming out. We’re spending a great deal of money, at my request, on finding a painkiller that’s not addictive, where people go out, and they have a minor problem — they go to a hospital with a broken arm or a bad back, and they come out and they’re drug-addicted, and they have bigger problems than they ever thought possible. Literally, at the end of a week, their whole lives are messed up. Destroyed.

And we’re setting rules and regulations that have had a tremendous impact.

So I just want to thank all of you folks, Secretary, for the job you’ve done. It’s been — it’s really been incredible. The success has been great. But the real success will be, I think, over the next few years. I think we’ll be doubling and tripling our numbers up.

And if we do that, we’re going to go from having a really big problem to having a much smaller problem. I guess there’ll always be something out there, but it’ll be a much, much more manageable, smaller problem. And we’ll have saved a lot of lives and helped a lot of families. And we’ll help people live a normal life, as opposed to the kind of hell they’re living through right now.”

The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.