Trump's Comments on N.H. Drug Crisis Earn Pushback from State Advocates

Oct 6, 2016

Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

This story has been updated with a response from the Trump campaign.

At his rally in Bedford last week, Donald Trump’s prescription for New Hampshire’s drug crisis — a wall at the southern border as a way to stop the flow of drugs into the country — earned plenty of cheers.

That proposal, and his assessment of the state’s drug issues more generally, went over less well with New Hampshire’s leading drug prevention advocacy organization, New Futures.

Ahead of Trump’s return to the state for another town hall tonight, the group called Trump’s comments “uninformed and not reflective of the work that needs to be done in the Granite State to address the current health crisis.”

Trump, at the Bedford rally, suggested that the severity of the drug crisis seemed especially surprising given New Hampshire’s idyllic landscape.

“You know what really amazed me when I came here and I got to know so many people? So many are in the room, so many great friends — they said the biggest single problem they have up here is heroin,” Trump said. “And I said how does heroin work with these beautiful lakes and trees?”

 New Futures Executive Director Linda Saunders Paquette, in a pre-written statement, took issue with this question.

“New Futures wants Mr. Trump to understand that addiction affects individuals from all walks of life, whether they live in rural areas with, as he put it, beautiful lakes and trees, or in urban or suburban settings,” Saunders Paquette said.

New Futures is asking Trump to share more details on his plans to address the drug crisis. The organization says it would welcome the chance for its policy experts to speak directly with Trump about these issues.

Beyond his pledge to build a wall, Trump has offered little in the way of concrete proposals on anti-drug policy. When asked about his plans to address opioid addiction at another New Hampshire campaign event last November, Trump spoke broadly about offering help for people who need addiction treatment but focused primarily on the wall.

“We’ve got to close up the borders,” Trump said at the time. “The drugs are pouring in. You know, when I say, ‘Build a wall,’ I’m not just playing games — we’re gonna have a real wall.”

Nearly a year later, at last week’s rally in Bedford, Trump was singing pretty much the same tune.

“We are going to build the wall, but we’re going to stop the poison from pouring in and destroying our youth and plenty of other people. And we’re going to work on those people that got addicted and are addicted,” Trump said in Bedford. “And I’ll tell you what: We’re going to do a real job for the state of New Hampshire. And I owe something very special because, again, this was my first victory, and this was where it all started.”

Responding to the concerns raised by New Futures, Michael Biundo, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said the campaign is "developing a transformational opioid abuse emergency response plan, to be launched right away in a new Trump administration."

Biundo expressed support for a proposal recently introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (along with Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin) that focuses specifically on stopping synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being transported into the country.

"We must end the illegal flow of drugs, cash, guns and people across the border that is fueling the crisis, end sanctuary cities that provide a haven for drug traffickers, and put the cartels out of business once and for all," Biundo said.

At last count, more than 241 people fatally overdosed in New Hampshire this year, according to the state medical examiner. More than two-thirds of this year's confirmed drug deaths have involved fentanyl, and only a small fraction were attributed to heroin.

Last year, New Hampshire saw a record number of drug deaths, and state officials have warned that this year's total could be even higher.