America is in the midst of a drug and mental health epidemic. The crisis before us has spiraled completely out of control under the Obama administration, and the numbers are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, with more than 8,200 deaths in 2013. While the headlines tend to focus on the rising levels of heroin addiction, this one drug is not acting alone. All around us opioids, prescription drugs and other illegally purchased drugs are claiming the lives of mothers, fathers, children, neighbors and teachers at alarming rates.
If we do not act quickly to get a handle on these issues, they will endanger our future generations to come. I know that the solutions will require input from physicians, pharmaceutical companies, health care workers, church leaders and the like, but we will need the voice of a true unifying leader to make any one policy work. I believe that voice is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Before I am attacked for believing that Trump is the best-suited candidate to tackle this issue, let us first consider the facts. At a speech in Maine, Trump stood with Gov. Paul LePage and blamed the lax southern border security for the state’s raging heroin problem. He said his immigration policies will stop the drugs from reaching our small towns. He vowed the same thing ahead of the New Hampshire primary, and asked the public to have confidence in his plan to solve the problem.
At a rally in Iowa, a father whose son died two years ago from a heroin overdose in upstate New York asked Trump how he would stop the drug from spreading. He told the man that his plan to build a wall will stop heroin from “pouring across” the border, and that the greatest thing the country can do to honor his dead son is to work to get addicted people off of the drug. Many scoff when they hear about Trump touting a wall at the border, but they fail to realize that the wall is more than just a physical presence. He’s not going to build the wall and walk away, it will be manned with expert intelligence and security to improve efficiency, which is the only way we will conquer this issue.
I agree with Trump, and I, along with the father who asked the question, believe that he is going to be the man that’s going to help stop the infiltration of heroin and other drugs into this country. It is ignorant for us to argue that border security issues are not largely contributing to the drug crisis. It seems like every week a new tunnel is discovered or haul of drugs is seized by border security, and let’s not forget about what snuck by before we were on high alert. Just last week, Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Nogales arrested four individuals during multiple smuggling attempts involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine. They also seized more than 137 pounds of illegal drugs.
It’s also important to consider the amount of red tape an issue brought before Congress faces before any action is taken. The very last thing that the drug abuse epidemic needs is another career Washington bureaucrat. We are inundated with the bureaucratic process that time and time again delays action on pressing issues that must be addressed. In typical Washington fashion, the issue goes before a committee that takes months to talk about it before creating a subcommittee to plan policies that will then be reviewed by yet another committee before any action is even taken.
I believe that Trump is the type of manager who, through his business experience, has learned to listen, and then very quickly execute an idea to get immediate results. He’s also a great delegator, and knows how to choose the right people to formulate the best team possible. This is exactly the type of commander that the war on drugs will require. How many more headlines do we have to read regarding the overdose-related death of an entertainer, celebrity or powerful businessman before we start acting for the hundreds of thousands that don’t receive the media attention?
Every so often, we see a viral video of a no-name person on a subway or a bus requiring the life-saving antidote after overdosing on drugs. But what about the hundreds who pour into emergency rooms with near-fatal overdoses, or the cops who administer the antidote on a daily basis? How do we acknowledge them? And now, with the introduction of newer, more powerful drugs like fentanyl, which looks just like pharmaceutical grade pills and are between 50 to 100 times as powerful as morphine, think about how many lives will be lost before any bureaucratic action is taken. Are we willing to sacrifice the lives of those everyday people?
This hidden cancer of drug abuse must be brought to light, and I think Trump is the boisterous leader to do that. I know that we elect presidents and political leaders in this country sometimes out of individual concerns. Some may vote based on economic concerns, while others may choose based on fears of terrorism. Here’s what’s so dangerous about the drug epidemic: It leaks into every other issue. You can bet that it’s affecting our economy, and you can be sure that it feeds into illegal activity which ultimately feeds into potential enemies of this country. Don’t fool yourself, this is as important of an issue as any other in this election cycle, and I believe in Trump more than any other candidate to tackle it.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel’s senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.