A much-anticipated plan that will address the opioid crisis in the US is now in its final stages. The plan is calling for increased law enforcement measures in dealing with the epidemic including death penalty for dealers. However, congressional Republicans and public health advocates are warning against such a move saying that it may diminish the current efforts to solve the issue.
The plan could be announced as early as Monday during President Trump’s visit in New Hampshire, a state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Trump’s plan is ambitious to say the very least. It features a combination of treatment and prevention measures which have already received strong support from public health advocates around the country. The plan is also expected to outline harsh law enforcement measures including a crackdown on dealers and traffickers.
However, several congressional Democrats are against the plan. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, for example, says that the recent history of US drug wars has shown that incarceration and execution have never been good solutions. There’s no indication that this time they will achieve different results.
President Trump has been criticized by public health officials and other anti-opioid advocates for moving too slowly to address the problem. This new plan may be a response to the criticism but the cost implications could be huge. Early estimates show that the action plan will require billions of dollars more than earlier thought. The plan’s budget is also way beyond any funding that Congress would approve. This raises new concerns on how effective its implementation will be.
The White House is confident that the plan will minimize opioid prescriptions and that the move will fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to end opioid abuse in the US. However, it’s not as easy as it looks. The US recorded over 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, most of which were directly related to opioid. A report by the CDC also says that emergency rooms last summer experienced a 30% spike in opioid-related emergencies. All these findings indicate that the crisis is very big and problematic.
Trump’s plan places special focus on deterrence and prevention. The proposal to introduce the death penalty for traffickers and dealers is just one of the law enforcement options. The President’s plan will also make it easier to appeal the minimum sentence for traffickers who voluntarily get involved in the distribution of opioids.
The plan proposes the setting up of a Prescription Interdiction and Litigation task force at the Department of Justice that will prosecute criminally negligent doctors. The White House is also calling on Congress to revoke a rule excluding Medicaid payment for the treatment of opioid addiction. The initial plan was supposed to come out on March 1st but it wasn’t ready at the time. However, it seems that this time everything is set.