The recent news that America experienced a record number of drug overdose deaths in 2020, unfortunately, did not come as much of a surprise to many of our country’s first responders and medical workers. Those brave individuals have been fighting on the front lines of America’s opioid crisis and know all too well the carnage that such drugs have been ravaging on American streets.
The spark may have been lit by the misuse and overprescribing of prescription opioids but illicit street drugs, particularly fentanyl, have been the proverbial gasoline on the fire. Efforts have been launched from all corners of the law enforcement and medical communities to bring this crisis under control with the aim of helping the United States kick its drug habit once and for all.
Like most issues in life, winning this fight comes down to a matter of resources. To date, beat cops across have simply been outmaneuvered by the multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprises that are running these drugs into our country and taking advantage of the chaos on the southern border to further integrate their smuggling networks into the United States. They have also borne some of the greatest risks on the frontlines of the fight against illicit fentanyl and on several occasions have become sickened by unintentional exposures to the drug.
Turning this tide will take a collaborative effort at the local, state, and federal levels of law enforcement and will require the full attention of all ranks of law enforcement from beat cop to the attorney general. Similarly, the rise in illicit opioid use that preceded the surge in drug overdose will necessitate additional funding to the medical community for treatment and recovery programs for those suffering from addiction. Along with interdiction efforts, it will be a key piece of the puzzle toward helping America kick its collective drug habit.
News that a nationwide $26 billion dollar settlement has just been reached with several distributors and one manufacturer of opioid prescription drugs is promising. That money can be immediately earmarked toward funding treatment programs. It will also free up legal resources in offices of district attorneys and state attorneys general that have been tied up in years of ongoing civil litigation to pivot their efforts toward building criminal cases against the cartels smuggling and distributing illegal opioids in the United States.
While 42 states, five territories, and Washington, D.C. signed on to the agreement, several others opted out altogether. New Hampshire only partially opted into the settlement. While this is a step in the right direction, it begs the question of why political leaders in Concord decided to only take this half-measure.
By only partially opting into this settlement, it will limit the extent to which the Granite State can immediately access much-needed resources to combat the opioid crisis at one of the lowest points in this fight. Not only that but pursuing continued litigation instead of opting for the full settlement will delay by years and may also jeopardize whether New Hampshire is able to receive additional funding in the future to combat the opioid crisis.
Despite years of litigation, very little has improved in the fight against illicit opioids as evidenced by the over 90,000 drug overdose deaths experienced in the United States last year. At the end of the day, it will be the combined efforts of law enforcement and the medical community that will help end the opioid crisis once and for all. Our attention should be directed towards winning this fight.