MANCHESTER, NH — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) listened closely as New Hampshire residents spoke about what’s needed to help and support people coming out of drug rehab programs.
Gabbard, one of the many running to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, was at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery Friday morning to find out what citizens believe is needed to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, and across the nation.
One woman told Gabbard that she had been clean for 14 months — which brought a round of applause from those in attendance — and she is now trying to help a friend get into a treatment program.
“You have to make treatment more accessible and help people who are struggling,” she said.
One woman said aftercare is needed once someone has gone through drug rehab. Most people who go through a 28-day detox have nothing when they are back on the streets. They have nowhere to go and can’t get hired anywhere, she said.
They need safe, affordable, clean transitional housing, the woman said, adding that there’s no housing for single women. Men can be placed in a sober house in Manchester in two hours but she has had to drive women to Nashua to find housing.
“Women just don’t have any safe places. Shelters are scary,” she said.
The woman said she overcame her addiction because she was able to go from detox to rehab to a sober house and finally, her own apartment. It took a year.
“It was very challenging,” she said. She, too, received a round of applause.
Another woman said the same thing is happening when someone is released from jail. “They put them on a bus to go home but there’s no home to go to. Or they send them back to parents who couldn’t handle them in the first place,” she said.
Gabbard said it was wrong for people with addictions to end up with criminal records, while executives at pharmaceutical companies are not held accountable for their role in the epidemic.
She said she talked with one veteran who came home from deployment with severe PTSD and physical injuries.
“The VA had him on opioids and then one day said we don’t think you need any more,” she said. “Eighty percent of heroin addicts started with opioids.”
What is needed in that case, she said, is Veterans Court where veterans can be placed in diversion programs and receive treatment. New Hampshire has three veterans courts, one each in Manchester, Nashua and in Brentwood at the Rockingham County Superior Court.
No one asked Gabbard about the Mueller Report but, after she finished speaking to about 40 residents for more than a half-hour, she briefly talked with reporters. She said she hadn’t finished reading the report so she couldn’t speak to it. However, she said what she hoped wasn’t being lost is that our elections are vulnerable to hacking.
Last year, she proposed legislation to protect election infrastructure from cyber-hackers by requiring the use of voter-verified paper ballots or a paper ballot backup in federal elections. It authorizes emergency funding every state could use voter-verified paper ballots that produce an auditable paper trail.
Gabbard touched on a number of other issues, including the need for the country to invest in education, health care, infrastructure and immigration reform. To pay for that, however, she said the country must first address the issue of the cost of war and the trillions of taxpayers’ dollars being spent on them.
“War should be a last resort and then that should be done in the interest of keeping the American people safe,” said Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East, and remains a major in Hawaii’s National Guard.
She said as President she would end America’s involvement in the war in Yemen and all regime change wars and bring the troops back home.
Asked what the level of defense should be, Gabbard said there is no “arbitrary number that you can pick out of the sky. I think you have to look at how our military has been misused, how our service members have been dishonored by sending them to regime change wars in battles that are not in the interest of the American people.”
She said wars are being driven by a military-industrial complex interested in regime change and the escalation of the nuclear arms race.
Gabbard said the same gameplay is used in starting regime change wars; humanitarian reasons are cited first. That is what is playing out in Venezuela, she said, but “what it’s really about is oil.”
What’s wanted is somebody willing “to let American companies go in there and get oil,” she said.
She said many of the challenges the country is facing is a result of “self-serving politicians and greedy corporations who are working for themselves and not only leaving us behind but creating incredible pain and hardship and threatening our future on this planet.”