Cincinnati, Ohio – US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he would continue “this encounter with China” to try to stop the flow of deadly drugs being smuggled into the United States through Mexico.
Biden, during an appearance at a CNN “Town Hall”-style event in Cincinnati, said his administration is “dealing with the whole opioid issue” by significantly increasing the number of people in the Justice Department working on it.
Fentanyl is believed to be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. The health crisis in the US due to synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, was often raised by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.
The former president has repeatedly criticized China, the primary exporter of fentanyl or its precursor chemicals to Mexico, where cartels smuggle it into the United States, for cracking down on drug trafficking.
The 1,500-word background memo was issued ahead of Biden’s third visit to Ohio during his 6-month-old presidency, covering major concerns in the state from repairing highway bridges to combating childhood obesity. It did not mention the opioid crisis, although Ohio has the highest per capita rate of overdose deaths, which has been the leading cause of fatal injuries in the state for more than a decade.
Asked about the incident by the VOA in an Air Force One flight on Wednesday whether — given that — the issue remains a priority for the Biden administration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied: “Absolutely, it is. is a top priority, and there’s no question. This is an issue that has and continues to affect people across Ohio. Any health expert will tell you that the most important thing we can do is to make sure that people have access to health care coverage.
Some of the US objectives set during the Trump administration regarding China remain unfulfilled.
Since Beijing’s crackdown on two such substances in 2018, China has taken no action to control excess fentanyl precursors.
Chinese smugglers have moved to Mexico to ship controlled chemicals and Chinese citizens have been largely charged with smuggling fentanyl into the United States, a January report from the Congressional Research Service noted. .
“I don’t believe there’s much we can do to slow the export of these drugs to these countries,” said Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc.: How rogue chemists created the deadliest wave of the opioid epidemic.
“We can only implement harm reduction measures at home, such as supervised injection facilities, while providing greater access to fentanyl test strips, drug assisted treatment and needle exchange programs,” he said.
Westhoff describes himself as an advocate for harm reduction, a philosophy that accepts that people cannot stop using drugs and instead users should be taught about their dangers and how they should be treated. Should help use more safely.
“In this framework, the Biden administration has been only marginally better than Trump. Mostly they have maintained the status quo,” Westhoff told VOA. “In the midst of the worst drug crisis in American history, we need much bolder action.”
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Ohio saw the largest number of drug overdoses last year — more than 5,215 per day for a total of 14, breaking the record high from 2017.
This places the Midwestern state with the fourth largest of the 50 US states.
Overall, drug deaths in the US increased dramatically, with a nearly 27% increase in the first six months of the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 88,000 Americans died in the 12-month period ending August 2020, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“Illegally manufactured fentanyl and synthetic opioids are the primary drivers of this increase,” with people aged 35 to 44 being most at risk, the office’s acting chief of staff, Regina LaBelle, told reporters in early April.
According to Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, “the Biden administration is not doing enough to resolve the issue with China or Mexico.”
Larkin said the question for the president is how many people should die from smuggled fentanyl before the southwest border is closed to drug traffickers.
“There are hundreds of people dying every day in this country while we wait for the answer to that question,” Larkin told VOA.
Police Chief Tom Sinan of Newton Village in Hamilton County, Ohio, who testified about the fentanyl crisis before the U.S. Senate in 2017, said most emergency calls to his officers are drug-related, whether they’re overdoses or gun crimes. .
There are 50 to 70 overdoses each week in Hamilton County and more than 400 people die each year.
While numbers in the county have stabilized, Sinan told the VOA that those stats are “a person, a mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter, I just had one mother today asking for help. Each one Days we are dealing with an addiction epidemic.”
Sinan said he wrote to Trump asking whether 70,000 to 100,000 Americans needed to die before action could be taken.
“I thought I was being over-dramatic. But now I realize that not only was I not being dramatic, but the numbers were too close,” said the police chief, adding that he had a similar question for Biden.
“I wholeheartedly believe that when the President of the United States stands up and says we need to change our perspective as Americans and change the way we deal with addiction. It will change the stigma. It will change criminal justice.” Funding will shift research out of the system and into the mental medicine health care system. And my question to him would be — what will it take for us to shift?
The White House, nearly four months ago, after the start of the Biden administration, Introduced a seven-part plan The intention is to reduce the number of deaths. It is to be implemented next year.
One goal is to shift the government’s response from a focus on arrest to treatment.
“What is really the biggest enabler of addiction is our own ideologies and policies that prevent us from turning to addiction and actually treating it as a mental medical health condition,” said Newtown’s police chief.
Biden has expressed an understanding of that approach.
“We should not send people to jail” [drug] use. We should send them for compulsory rehabilitation,” the president said on Wednesday night’s television programme.