Pubdate: Wed, 09 Aug 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.


On Tuesday, President Donald Trump met with Cabinet members and senior
staff at his golf club in Bedminster to discuss the opioid crisis.
Missing at the meeting was Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the
president's commission charged with studying the national rise of
heroin and opioid addiction. Christie is on vacation. While the
governor missed the meeting, the president is missing the message
Christie has been sending for several years: treatment over
incarceration will save lives.

Long before his approval rating tanked at 15 percent, Christie used
his then sizable political capital to focus on treatment and
rehabilitation. He did it when he pushed for drug courts. He did it
when he eloquently spoke of a law student friend who died because of
addiction. And during his presidential bid, Christie resonated most
effectively with voters when talking about drug addiction.

And the reason was obvious -- the opioid crisis has crossed all
socio-economic lines. It is not just an urban problem. As we see in
North Jersey, despite all the attention Christie and Bergen County
Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal have focused on bringing numbers down, the
opposite is occurring. This year, there have already been 63
drug-related deaths in Bergen County and, according to Grewal, 80
percent of them were linked to opioids.

So it was disturbing and disheartening to hear Trump return to old
methods, rather than new ones to combat addiction. Trump wants more
prosecutions, blaming the Obama administration for being lax on
enforcement. "So they looked at this scourge and they let it go by,
and we're not letting it go by."

Trump also said the best way to prevent drug addiction is to tell
children that drugs are "no good, really bad for you in every way."

Nancy Reagan was saying that back in the Eighties. It didn't work.

In January, in his State of the State address, Christie said, "We want
to continue to take the same approaches we have taken for 30 years or
more -- to jail those who have this disease. We want to close our eyes
and hope this scourge passes by our own homes -- if we hope and pray
just hard enough to make it so."

The governor and the commission he leads has recommended that
treatment programs must be expanded, including relaxing Medicaid
regulations that would expand the number of treatment centers
qualifying for federal funding. The commission also wants more
education for doctors and prescribers of pain medications.

Christie has never been shy about using law enforcement to arrest and
prosecute dealers. But as he said, we cannot arrest ourselves out of
this health care emergency.

And that is the kicker -- calling the rise in opioid abuse the
national public health emergency it is. So far, the president and his
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price are not willing to go
that far. But they must. Those words will spur Congress to fund
prevention and treatment programs.

It is not enough to develop drugs that can counteract the effects of
an overdose. We have to stop people from becoming addicted in the
first place.

The Bedminster meeting was overshadowed by the president's incendiary
comments on North Korea's threats of nuclear force. While we hope such
ill-advised rhetoric will quickly give way to more measured diplomatic
talk, we have no such hope for the opioid crisis. It is a national
health care emergency. The "fire and fury" Trump threatens to use on
North Korea should be channeled into combatting this national
emergency with smart prosecutions and expanded drug treatment programs.

On this issue, Christie is speaking the hard truth. Trump should
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