President Donald Trump said America “will prevail” over the national opioid epidemic during his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening, vowing to get “treatment for those in need.”
First lady Melania Trump brought as guests Officer Ryan Holets, of the Albuquerque Police Department in New Mexico, and his wife Rebecca, who adopted the baby of a homeless woman struggling with a heroin addiction. Trump honored the family during his address, telling Ryan and Rebecca, “you embody the goodness of our nation.”
Holets was on patrol when he came across a pregnant woman getting ready to inject heroin. When he warned her she would harm her child, she began crying, telling Holets she did not know where to turn for help. The father of four said he felt called by God to step in and adopt the woman’s unborn child.
After telling their story Trump addressed Ryan and Rebecca directly, saying, “Thank you.”
Trump promised to crack down on “drug dealers and pushers” in the address, while also pledging his commitment to securing treatment fro those struggling with addiction. He noted that opioid addiction claimed a record number of lives in 2016 and said that while turning the tide of addiction will be difficult, “as Americans always do, we will succeed, we will prevail.”
Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.
Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, killing 42,249 people in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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