There was a discussion today at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hooksett, N.H., presented by the Addiction Policy Forum. The addiction epidemic has grown exponentially in New Hampshire, with 351 deaths from heroin and opioids last year alone, which has made addiction a top political issue in the state. Meanwhile, it ranks second-last in terms of delivering treatment.
Listening in, I noticed the flavor was naturally political because of the who's-who list of presenters. I snagged a few soundbites for you.
Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-Vt.) endorsed Hillary Clinton’s plan for addressing addiction, which includes federal matching dollars:
“She’s saying some states are doing incredible work, and some states are doing nothing.”
When a gentleman in the audience stood up and said, “We don’t know for sure it’s a disease. We think it’s a sin,” Shumlin replied:
“Thank you for your opinion. I don’t think there’s anyone in American who would say we don’t need to tap everything that we can to deal with this crisis. There are a lot folks, many church-based treatment programs … and there’s no question that they have an important role to play. Everyone must decide individually about their faith, but I can tell you there is no question that we need to get everybody involved.”
Emmanuel Baptist Church Pastor Eric Davis spoke to the parallel of respect for life:
“The life of that addict is just as important as the life of that unborn baby.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who is on the campaign trail spoke at length about his father who had alcohol addiction and his half sister who died of a drug overdose:
“There’s no uniform solution that fixes it all. It’s certainly not going to be Washington, D.C. It’s going to be friends and family, churches, charities, loved ones, treatment centers and those working to help others overcome their struggle with addiction. Drug addiction is a disease. Alcohol addiction is a disease. It is a vicious disease.”
Cruz also noted that Alcoholics Anonymous began without any financial support and continues to be self-sustaining today. He encouraged churches and communities to offer a spiritual connection for recovery.
“Each of us on the ground can make a real difference. Now I will note there is a second thing that can make a difference, which is securing the borders.”
Cruz spoke about the challenges that border guards are having today because of what he feels is a lack of support.
“If I am elected president, you have my solemn commitment: We will secure the borders. And we will end this plague of rampant drugs flooding into this country and destroying lives.”
During a roundtable, Becky Vaughn, vice president of addictions for the National Council for Behavioral Health, offered a hopeful message:
“We have come so far in terms of research and knowledge, just like other chronic diseases. And we know so much more than Doctor Bob and Bill W. knew when they got things started for people way back. That’s the good news.”
Vaughn also called for a response that is proportionate to the addiction crisis:
“We are not putting them in asylums just because we don’t understand what’s going on. Instead, we are giving hope. And at the same time, we mobilize and respond to other serious medical crises—look at the Ebola reaction. Does anybody remember how many people died from Ebola? Not very many, compared to what’s going on with this crisis. We know the government has capacity to mobilize all the stakeholders—you’re absolutely right, not just government, but everybody—to address something that is truly an incredible crisis.”