MANCHESTER, NH – President Trump’s message to a community that has been ravaged by drugs was a welcome one. On Monday Trump came to Manchester to talk about breaking the chain of misery that drug addiction has wrought, one link at a time – from drug suppliers and dealers, all the way to the morgues.
He came to New Hampshire to announce a new national resolve in prioritizing the country’s deadly drug problem.
“This scourge of drug addiction will stop. It will stop,” Trump said, to applause, part of his opening remarks during the kick-off of a media blitz, including thecrisisnextdoor.gov, a website where “Americans can share their stories of addiction.”
In New Hampshire the death rate from drugs is double the national average, Trump said, remarking how “unbelievable” a statistic it is. However, he was preaching to the choir, as audience members included Gov. Chris Sununu, Department of Health and Human Services Director Jeffrey Meyers, former Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, Police Chief Nick Willard and Fire Chief Dan Goonan, many leaders from the trenches of the city’s recovery programs.
And too many families still living beneath a veil of grief that never fully lifts.
“Defeating this epidemic will require the commitment of every state, local and federal agency. Failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future,” Trump said. “We will raise a drug-free generation of children.”
Trump began by honoring law enforcement and acknowledging families who’d endured terrible hardships, “especially those who’ve lost precious loved ones.”
He then spoke directly to the people of New Hampshire.
“I see what you’re going through – about as bad as there is anywhere in the country. And I said I’d be back, and we are back,” Trump said. “We are pouring a lot of money and a lot of talent into this horrible problem. And we pledge to honor the memory of those you lost with action and determination and resolve. We’ll get it. We will not rest until the end.”
Trump spoke about targeting drug traffickers as a key element of his plan.
“If we don’t get tough on drug dealers, we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty,” Trump said, to more applause from the crowd. “Some of these drug dealers will kill thousands of people, and destroy many more lives than that. But they will kill thousands of people and they’ll get 30 days in jail, or they’ll go away for a year, or they’ll be fined. Yet, if you kill one person, you get the death penalty, or you go away for life,” Trump said.
“So if we’re not going to get tough on the drug dealers who kill thousands of people and destroy so many lives, we’re doing the wrong thing. We have to get tough. I don’t want to leave at the end of seven years and still have this problem,” said Trump, whose subliminal 2020 presidential bid evoked some applause and chuckles.
Trump said beyond opioids, he would be addressing the country’s “general opioid crisis,” by reducing demand for drugs in an effort to prevent addiction.
“So important. That includes increasing federal funding for the development of non-addictive painkillers. And we have to come up with a solution where we come up with a painkiller that’s not so addictive. And we can do it. We’re not that far off. We can do it. These things are incredibly addictive. So we’re going to find that answer also,” Trump said.
He said many states are already taking action against drug manufacturers, and that the White House would look at possible legal action from the Department of Justice, acknowledging the role that pharmaceutical companies have played in the manufacture and marketing of highly-addictive drugs, for profit.
“We’re going to cut nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years. We’re also going to make sure that virtually all prescriptions reimbursed by the federal government follow best practices for prescribing. We’ll ensure that opioid addiction is not subsidized by the American taxpayer,” Trump said.
Although Trump’s overall plan was thin on details and did not include a price tag, he continued to deliver the theoretical goods throughout the 40-minute speech.
A second prong of Trump’s plan is to reduce the supply of illicit drugs.
“Ninety percent of the heroin in America comes from our southern border, where, eventually, the Democrats will agree with us and we’ll build the wall to keep the damn drugs out,” Trump said, his statement answered by a chant from the audience of, “Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!”
Trump segued into a little partisan politics over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act, which led to his disdain for so-called “sanctuary cities.” Trump cited an example that hit close to home for the audience – and rankled neighboring cities of Boston, and Lawrence, Mass.
“According to a recent Dartmouth study, the sanctuary city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, is one of the primary sources of fentanyl in six New Hampshire counties. ICE recently arrested 15 MS-13 gang members – these are not good people, folks. Okay? These are bad, bad people. They don’t use guns. They’d rather use knives because it’s more painful and it takes longer. These are bad people – in Boston, Massachusetts, which is a place where you have sanctuary cities,” Trump said. “I’m repeating my call on Congress to block funds for sanctuary cities and to close the deadly loopholes that allow criminals back into our country and into our country in the first place.”
Trump then circled back to the death penalty – something he said he wondered if Americans were ready for.
“Take a look at some of these countries where they don’t play games. They don’t have a drug problem. We have court cases that last 10 years, and then they get out at the end. We got to be tough. We have to be smart. We have to change the laws, and we’re working on that right now. The Department of Justice is working very, very hard on that,” Trump said.
“But the ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty. Now, maybe our country is not ready for that. It’s possible – it’s possible that our country is not ready for that. And I can understand it, maybe. Although, personally, I can’t understand that. But there are people that are good people, that are strong, smart people, and they would differ with most of us. But I think unless you do that, unless you have really, really powerful penalties, led by the death penalty for the really bad pushers and abusers, we are going to get nowhere. And I’m telling you, we are going to get somewhere,” Trump said.
The third prong of Trump’s plan is focused on recovery.
“I can think of nothing more important. The third part of our initiative is to get lifesaving help to those who need it. We’re going to make sure our first responders have access to lifesaving overdose-reversing drugs – which, by the way, are amazing,” Trump said.
Again, the President was preaching to the choir on Narcan, something that New Hampshire residents are well aware of. He then introduced Michael Kelly, the President of Adapt, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the opioid-reversal drug.
Kelly had an announcement of his own.
“We’ve provided, free of charge, four boxes [of Narcan] to all colleges and universities in the United States; two boxes free for every high school in the United States; as well as educational awareness for the nursing departments, as well as the faculty to train and teach everybody about the dangers of opioids and the risks, and also the benefits of having Narcan nasal spray near where opioids are,” Kelly said.
Trump then invited Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II to the microphone. Azar, a former CEO of Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals, detailed a plan to reduce the amount of opioid medications in circulation through reducing costs of prescription drugs.
“Last year the FDA approved more generic drugs than it ever has in its history. And that brings prices down for patients, for the system, for everybody,” Azar said. “You also changed the rules so our senior citizens pay less out of pocket for their drugs. That’s $3.2 billion that they’re paying less out of pocket for their drugs when they go to the pharmacy.”
Azar also spoke about “a whole slate of other proposals” that will roll out within the next month around discounts currently going to “middlemen” that will be passed on instead to patients.
“And that’s where we’re focused on prevention and getting that one-third fewer illegal opioid prescriptions to our people. The second is the stopping of the illicit flow of these opioids into our country. And the third is compassionate treatment for people – evidence-based, science-based, compassionate treatment – that can help people recover and stay away from relapse,” Azar said.
Trump, appealing again to the New Hampshire crowd, mentioned calling on Congress to roll back “the restrictive 1970s-era law” that prevents Medicaid from paying for care at certain treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. “It’s such an important factor,” Trump said.
In the interim, Trump said he would be granting waivers to states to help those needing treatment now, although he did not get into the specifics of how much money that would mean for New Hampshire. But Trump added that part of the plan must include helping inmates who are leaving prison to get treatment and “a second chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens.”
Trump ended his speech with gusto, hitting all the right notes for the crowd, which rose to their feet by the end of his soliloquy:
“We see it in sons and daughters who cheer on moms and dads as they recover. We see it in the doctors and nurses who provide constant and loving care. We see it in the heroic law enforcement officers who race into unimaginable danger. We see it in EMTs and firefighters who act so quickly to save so many lives. And we see this American heart in the men and women who fight every day to help rescue their fellow citizens from the grips of addiction.
These are the courageous souls who remind us that, for America, there is nothing beyond our reach. Nothing at all. Nothing.
We will defeat this crisis, we will protect our beautiful children, and we will ensure that tomorrow is better, brighter, stronger, and greater than ever before. Because as long as we have trust in our citizens, pride in our country, and faith in our God, we will not fail.
Together, we will end the scourge of drug addiction in America once and for all. We will win. We will beat it. We’ll be tough. We’ll be smart. We’ll be kind. We’ll be loving. We’ll do whatever we have to do. But we’re going to win.”
Mayor Joyce Craig released the following statement about Trump’s visit to Manchester, which included a brief stopover at the Central Fire Station which Craig attended:
“I’m glad the President had the opportunity to see first-hand the good work our first responders are doing and the challenges they face serving on the front line of the opioid epidemic,” Craig said. We know the majority of people seeking services for substance use disorder in Manchester are from outside of the city. Because this is a statewide and national problem, our taxpayers, service providers and our first responders cannot continue to shoulder this burden without increased support from the White House. As I told the President today, it’s up to all of us to rise above politics and work together to bring relief to families being devastated by the opioid epidemic.”