Heroin and opioid addiction is rotting small town America from within. It’s not just an inner-city problem, and we need to face that fact.
It seems like the hurt just keeps coming for small town America. The same people who voted for President Trump’s promises of a better America might now be realizing that those promises are filled with gaps, issue and concern. Back when he was a mere candidate full of presidential hopes and dreams, Donald Trump promised small town, middle American voters better access to drug addiction programs, stronger prevention options and a new and an overall improved war on drugs. He vowed to build a wall protecting and segregating America from Mexico in part to halt the flow of illegal drugs filtering into the United States. The United States is currently facing its worst heroin and opiod crisis in more than sixty years. 2015 saw more than 52,000 American deaths related to drug overdoses, the highest in our history, according to The State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. With roughly 90-94% of domestically consumed heroin coming in from Mexico it is easy to see why so many concerned and affected Americans quickly bought into President Trumps grand plan of saving Americans from the drug epidemic and working towards a drug free America. So super! Drugs are bad so let’s get rid of them! Wouldn’t it be amazing if it was all that simple? Build a wall, stop the drugs, save the people. Halting the flow of illegal narcotic activity is only one side of coin though.
To be clear, I have nothing against fighting a war on drugs. I’ve seen what drug abuse can do to families firsthand. Back when I was teaching in a rural public school district I held the hands of family members who were raising their sister’s kids, their daughter’s kids and their son’s kids because their kin was drug addicted and incapable of doing it themselves. I read through horrific CA 60’s recounting the tales of children who has suffered neglect, trauma and abuse because of drugs. I have seen the devastating effects of drug addiction from within the walls of my own extended family. Addiction is a bitch to fight, consuming the addicted and all who love them so desperately. It is a war that must be fought and must be won. To millions of Americans it is the only war that matters. The problem is the wall isn’t going to necessarily fix this issue. It won’t make your mom put down the needle or your daughter leave the drug house. While wall plans seem to be moving forward, healthcare plans are doing the opposite. We may be creating physical boundaries to halt the flow of heroin, but what about the already hooked Americans dependent on treatment programs here in the states?
The Trump-backed healthcare plan aims to disband the Obamacare requirement that addiction services and mental health treatment options be covered by Medicaid in some 31 states. The reformed GOP plan leaves treatment options up to the state, and with state budgets already stretched to the max it’s not looking good for those already battling addiction. “If you cut off even the essential funding for people to get that treatment, they simply won’t get it,” said Dr. David C. Lewis, the founder of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. “That is the problem.” We are not talking small potatoes here either. Some 1.3 million Americans currently rely on drug treatment programs through Medicaid expansion.
Small town America is dying. Ohio has seen a 775% increase in opioid related deaths over the last thirteen years. For those who like their visuals here you go:
These tiny towns can’t even house the lifeless bodies that drugs have claimed. For example the Stark county morgue can hold approximately 12 bodies at any given time, not nearly enough space to hold the dead, so cold storage trailers are being used to house bodies. Overdose deaths have created a need to stuff bodies in storage trailers, that is how bad it is. Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia are being consumed by addiction every single day. In states where poverty is high and resources are low taking what little treatment options there already are will only see these startling drug related statistics skyrocket. It’s some scary stuff for a mom like myself raising my daughters a mere couple of hundred miles away from the epidemic’s booming epicenter.
It seems counterproductive to fight a war of drugs at the border, but not address and attend to the war within the walls. Surely a complex problem, it needs to be addressed from all angles including continuing treatment for those who are already fighting for their lives.