08/13/17 Donald Trump

The Trump administration wants to waive the medical privacy rights of people who are prescribed opiates, so the president may be declaring a national emergency over drugs.

Century of Lies
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Donald Trump
Download: Audio icon col081317.mp3



AUGUST 13, 2017


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

All right, folks, it's been a real busy week. The president of the United States made a statement about the opioid crisis. It was about as boring as it could get, he didn't even read his script very well, and at the end of it he just repeated a bunch of platitudes that meant bloody nothing.

DONALD TRUMP: The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don't start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off. So if we can keep them from going on and maybe by talking to youth and telling them no good, really bad for you, in every way, but if they don't start, it will never be a problem.

We're also working with law enforcement officers to protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities. Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug free society.

DOUG MCVAY: Earlier in the day, we got a slightly more substantive -- okeh, that's exaggerating. We got a much longer news conference from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, who was assisted by Kellyanne Conway, a presidential advisor. They had a long news conference, gave their statements, which were also rather content free. They did answer questions. The questions, that's where the interesting part comes in. First, let's hear from that news conference from Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway, this again is the news conference portion.

DEPT. OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Happy to take a question or two. Yes.

REPORTER: Mister Secretary, couple of questions. Several attorneys general, including some Republicans, have said manufacturers of opioids should be sued, and are culpable or should be legally culpable for parts of this crisis. Do you agree with that? What's the administration's orientation to those lawsuits?

TOM PRICE: Well, there are a couple suits that are out there right now that have already begun. I think that this gives voice and punctuates the damage and the harm that people have felt because of, of this crisis. There isn't a position that the administration has on these, on these suits at this point, but it has clearly gotten the attention of the pharmaceutical companies. Some have analogized it to the tobacco issue and the master settlement that occurred, I don’t know, 20 years ago, with the issue of tobacco. Whether this is something that's analogous to that, I don’t know. But it's --

REPORTER: Do you see it in that light, Mr. Secretary?

TOM PRICE: Well, what I see is that there is -- that we continue to move in the wrong direction on the number of individuals that are not only addicted, but the number of individuals that are losing their lives to addiction. And so, the President is absolutely committed to solving that problem, and we are going to turn over every single rock and make certain that we're identifying every single thing that could move us in a better direction.

REPORTER: Is it a national emergency?

SECRETARY PRICE: Well, the President certainly believes that it is, that we will treat it as an emergency, and it is an emergency. When you have the capacity of Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium dying every single year in this nation, that's a crisis that has to be, has to be given incredible attention, and the President is giving it that attention. Yes.

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, thank you. I was curious. Those of us old enough to remember the crack problem 20-plus years ago, how is this different? And how is the approach to deal with the opioid problem going to be any different? And are we just going through a cycle of a new crisis every 20 years and the public forgets? I mean, what's different here?

TOM PRICE: Well, it's different for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the magnitude and the numbers of individuals succumbing to addiction and losing their lives. And this is relatively recent. In the past 10 to 15 years, these numbers have spiked up. So the difference is that, that the crack cocaine issue, which was a terrible, terrible issue, but it didn’t have the potency of the medication that exists right now. Right now, carfentanyl and fentanyl exist in a way that kill individuals with very small doses. The cost of illicit drugs, the cost of heroin, for example, is significantly lower than it has been. So the access to these drugs is, is that much greater.

So it may be cyclic in terms of generational engagement or involvement, but, as Kellyanne said, this knows no age distribution. It's affecting folks young and old, across all demographics in our society. So we believe that it is, that it is different if only because of the potency of the medication and the numbers of individuals who are succumbing to it.

Yes, ma'am.

REPORTER: Secretary Price, thank you. I do have a question for Kellyanne, but first to you. Why has the President not officially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency? And does he plan to?

TOM PRICE: Well, most national emergencies that have been declared in the area of public health emergency have been focused on a specific area, a time-limited problem, either an infectious disease or, or a specific threat to, to public health. The two most recent that come to mind are the Zika outbreak and, and Hurricane Sandy. So, we believe that as this point, that the, the resources that we need, or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the President.

REPORTER: So it's not imminent that he would do that, but it's on the table.

SECRETARY PRICE: All things are on the table.

REPORTER: Okay. Kellyanne Conway, if you'd like to weigh in on that, and then also, if I can ask you about the President's comments on North Korea, he said that North Korea, if they continue their threats, will be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Can you explain specifically what he meant by "fire and fury"? Is that military action?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, I can't. I think the President's comments were very strong and obvious. I know all of you covered them live. And I would defer to other members of Dr. Price's cabinet to comment further.

REPORTER: And anything you want to add to the emergency status question?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, because I'll leave that to the health professionals, but I will tell you that the President and the First Lady are taking very seriously what is an absolute epidemic, and they see it that way also. We are at a very peak level. And one thing I should have mentioned earlier that is a very important component here is destigmatizing the use -- the misuse of, of substances. We find time and again people are just too fearful to come forward and admit that they have a problem, admit it to the people closest, their family members, their friends, their colleagues.

And also, something that we discussed with the President and the First Lady at length are the very -- the different accounts that we’ve heard in states, and you can see the stories for yourselves. "We’re so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, we tried to save your son, in fact, we resuscitated him three or four times over the last six or eight months, but this time he was too far gone." And they say, who, what, when? They don’t even know that their son or their loved one has had a substance misuse disorder -- a substance abuse disorder.

And sometimes the privacy laws don’t allow parents of a 19-year-old, in fact, to be notified. So this is something of which we’re very aware also.


REPORTER: The President’s commission on the opioid crisis recommended that the President urgently, immediately, call this a national emergency because that frees up resources, that lifts some of these barriers that allows more Medicaid recipients to go into treatment. Why do you feel like that isn’t something that needs to happen right now, I mean, was the commission wrong on this?

TOM PRICE: No, there's an interim report from the commission and it’s being reviewed at all different levels of the government, but everything that you just mentioned can be done, and many of it -- much of it is being done without the declaration of a national emergency, either a Stafford Act emergency or a public health emergency. So --

REPORTER: So they've expanded to let more Medicaid recipients --

TOM PRICE: Everything that you talked about can be done. Now, we’re talking about what should be done, and working through the department and through the other agencies that, that I mentioned, to come forward with that coherent strategy, that comprehensive strategy and recommendation for the President, and we’ll do so in short order.

UNKNOWN: Last questions.

TOM PRICE: Yes ma'am.

REPORTER: Yes, just to follow up on something Kellyanne Conway said. So are you looking at changing privacy laws or HIPAA around drug addiction, specifically? I guess either of you can answer it.

TOM PRICE: Yeah. This is really an important issue because so oft -- one of the things that we’ve found when going around the country is that it’s the local communities, it’s the local, loving community, the families, the organizations within communities, that are so pivotal to providing success for individuals getting through, through the treatment and on to recovery.

And so it’s devastating for, for anybody to, to learn of a family who is not able to be notified that one of their loved ones has had, has had a problem with addiction because of privacy laws. So we’re looking through the regulatory process to determine what can be done, if anything, to, to make it so that, that those, those requirements are not -- those privacy requirements are not as onerous in the, in the case of, of an overdose. And it certainly is something that Congress could address and we’ll talking with them and have had conversations with many of them about that.

REPORTER: Speaking of Congress, is the healthcare bill dead?

TOM PRICE: The healthcare challenge across this nation is not dead, and, and, and so, and so what we, what, what we believe needs to occur is that the Congress needs to address the issue in a way that allows individuals to gain the kind of access to coverage and care that they need. Thank you all so much. Thank you.

REPORTER: Do you still want to cut Medicaid drastically? Because the report talks a lot about Medicaid use.

DOUG MCVAY: That was a news conference by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway. That news conference was on August 8th. You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.Net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Shortly after that news conference, the White House did finally post the president, giving his statement, reading his script, reading it badly. He really did. I watched Ronald Reagan and Nancy do -- do their thing from back in September of 1986, when they announced the Just Say No campaign.

RONALD REAGAN: From the early days of our administration, Nancy has been intensely involved in the effort to fight drug abuse. She has since traveled over a hundred thousand miles, to 55 cities in 28 states and six foreign countries to fight school aged drug and alcohol abuse. She's given dozens of speeches and scores of interviews, and has participated in 24 special radio and TV tapings to create greater awareness of this crisis.

Her personal observations and efforts have given her such dramatic insights, that I wanted her to share them with you this evening. Nancy?

NANCY REAGAN: Thank you. As a mother, I've always thought of September as a special month, a time when we bundled our children off to school, to the warmth of an environment in which they could fulfill the promise and hope in those restless minds. But so much has happened over these last years, so much to shake the foundations of all that we know and all that we believe in.

Today, there's a drug and alcohol abuse epidemic in this country and no one is safe from it. Not you, not me, and certainly not our children, because this epidemic has their names written on it.

Many of you may be thinking, well, drugs don't concern me. But it does concern you. It concerns us all, because of the way it tears at our lives, and because it's aimed at destroying the brightness and life of the sons and daughters of the United States.

For five years, I've been traveling across the country, learning and listening, and one of the most hopeful signs I've seen is a building of an essential new awareness of how terrible and threatening drug abuse is to our society.

This was one of the main purposes when I started, so of course it makes me happy that that's been accomplished. But each time I meet with someone new, or receive another letter from a troubled person on drugs, I yearn to find a way to help share the message that cries out from them.

As a parent, I'm especially concerned about what drugs are doing to young mothers, and their newborn children. Listen to this news account, from a hospital in Florida, of a child born to a mother with a cocaine habit. Nearby, a baby named Paul lies motionless in an incubator, feeding tubes riddling his tiny body. He needs a respirator to breathe and a daily spinal tap to relieve fluid build-up on his brain. Only one month old, he's already suffered two strokes.

Now you can see why drug abuse concerns every one of us, all the American family. Drugs steal away so much, they take and take, until finally every time a drug goes into a child, something else is forced out, like love, and hope, and trust, and confidence. Drugs take away the dream from every child's heart and replaces it with a nightmare, and it's time we in America stand up and replace those dreams.

Each of us has to put our principles and consciences on the line, whether in social settings or in the workplace, to set forth solid standards and stick to them. There's no moral middle ground. Indifference is not an option. We want you to help us create an outspoken intolerance for drug use, for the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs.

Our young people are helping us lead the way. Not long ago, in Oakland, California, I was asked by a group of children what to do if they were offered drugs. And I answered, just say no. Soon after that, those children in Oakland formed a Just Say No Club, and now there are over 10,000 such clubs all over the country. Well, their participation and their courage in saying no needs our encouragement.

We can help by using every opportunity to force the issue of not using drugs, to the point of making others uncomfortable, even if it makes -- meaning -- making ourselves unpopular. Our job is never easy, because drug criminals are ingenious. They work every day to plot a new and better way to steal our children's lives, just as they've done by developing this new drug, crack.

For every door that we close, they open a new door, to death. They prosper on our unwillingness to act. So we must be smarter and stronger and tougher than they are. It's up to us to change attitudes and just simply dry up their markets.

And finally, to young people watching or listening, I have a very personal message for you. There's a big, wonderful world out there for you. It belongs to you. It's exciting and stimulating and rewarding. Don't cheat yourselves out of this promise. Our country needs you, but it needs you to be clear eyed and clear minded.

I recently read one teenager's story. She's now determined to stay clean, but was strung out on several drugs. What she remembered most clearly about her recovery was that during the time she was on drugs, everything appeared to her in shades of black and gray. And after her treatment, she was able to see colors again.

So to my young friends out there, life can be great, but not when you can't see it. So open your eyes to life, to see it in the vivid colors that god gave us, as a precious gift to his children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life, and when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm sorry. Ronnie just was a much, much better performer. They were miserable presidents, they're both miserable presidents, but he was a much better performer. Might be why two days later, Donald Trump held another news conference. Our president went out at his home in New Jersey and made a statement about the opioid crisis, and now, he says we are going to declare a national emergency. Well, here he is.

DONALD TRUMP: Hello everybody. We're having some meetings, I know you're going to be watching a couple of them. We have a lot of people here today. Lot of subjects under discussion including Venezuela, including of course North Korea, and other things, and I think we're making tremendous headway. We'll be spending quite a bit of time here and then we, during the weekend as you know toward the end we're going to Manhattan, where I have a lot of meetings scheduled in Manhattan. Any questions?

REPORTER: Mister president, the North Koreans said yesterday that your statement on Tuesday was nonsense, that's the word that they used. Do you have any response to that?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't think they mean that, and I think they, it's the first time they've heard it like they heard it, and frankly, the people that were questioning that statement, was it too tough, maybe it wasn't tough enough. They've been doing this to our country for a long time, for many years, and it's about time that somebody stuck up for the people of this country and for the people of other countries, so, if anything, maybe that statement wasn't tough enough, and we're backed by a hundred percent by our military, we're backed by everybody, and we're backed by many other leaders, and I noticed that many senators and others today came out very much in favor of what I said. But if anything, that statement may not be tough enough.

REPORTER: What would be tougher than fire and fury?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You'll see.

REPORTER: Mister president, is one of the options you'll consider a pre-emptive strike, a first strike?

DONALD TRUMP: We don't talk about that. I never do. I'm not like the other administration that would say we're going into Mosul in four months, I don't talk about it. We'll see what happens. But I can tell you that what they've been doing, and what they've been getting away with, is a tragedy. And it can't be allowed.

REPORTER: Mister president, would you ever consider negotiations, under different circumstances?

DONALD TRUMP: Sure. We'll always consider negotiations, but they've been negotiating now for 25 years, look at Clinton, he folded on the negotiations, he was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama, Obama, he didn't even want to talk about it. But I talk. It's about time. Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to do it.

REPORTER: Mister president, can you talk about your relationship with Senator McConnell?

DONALD TRUMP: I just want him to get repeal and replace done. I've been hearing repeal and replace now for seven years but I've only been doing this for two years and I've really only been doing this for six months but I've been running so now it's almost two years and I, all I hear is repeal and replace, and then I get there, and I said where't the bill I want to sign it, first day, and they don't have it. And they passed repeal and replace, but they never had a president frankly or a senate that was going to do it, but they never have -- had a president so it didn't matter.

So I say very simply, where is repeal and replace? Now I want tax reform and tax cuts, we're going to reduce taxes for the people, we pay more tax than anybody in the world, and we're going to reduce taxes, so I say, tax cuts, tax reform, and I want a very big infrastructure bill, well we're working on that very hard already, and we can do that, and we may even get bipartisan on infrastructure, but we want to have it, but I said Mitch, get to work and let's get it done. They should have had this last one done. They lost by one vote, for a thing like that to happen is a disgrace, and frankly it shouldn't have happened, that I can tell you.

REPORTER: Should Senator McConnell consider stepping down as majority leader? There are some conservative analysts including Sean Hannity who say it's time for him to retire.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what, if he doesn't get repeal and replace done, if he doesn't get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn't get a very one to get done, infrastructure, if he doesn't get them done, then you can ask me that question.

REPORTER: So what is that, a yes or a no?

DONALD TRUMP: You can ask me the question, that means ask me that question. Let's hope he gets it done.

REPORTER: Mister president, is the opioid crisis an emergency and if so why haven't you declared one?

DONALD TRUMP: The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency, it's a national emergency, we're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.

REPORTER: But, do you need emergency powers to address this?

DONALD TRUMP: We're going to draw it up and we're going to make it a national emergency, it is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up they had the LSD, and they had certain generations of drugs, there's never been anything like what's happened to this country over the last four or five years, and I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide, but this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.

REPORTER: Mister president, there have been some mixed messages coming out of your administration on North Korea, Secretary Tillerson seems to advocate diplomacy, Secretary Mattis seems to advocate for more --

DONALD TRUMP: There are no mixed messages, there are no mixed messages, I heard, I mean to be honest, General Mattis may have taken it a step beyond what I said, there are no mixed messages, and Rex was just, you know, stating the view that look, here's the view, I said it yesterday, I don't have to say it again, and I'll tell you this, it may be tougher than I said it, not less, it may be very well be tougher than I said it. Okeh? How about one more.

REPORTER: Can you offer any assurance to the American people who are understandably anxious about the situation with North Korea, they see images of these missiles coming up in the air, the threat to Guam, they see your statement about fire and fury, should they be comfortable that you have this under control?

DONALD TRUMP: People of this country should be very comfortable, and I will tell you this, if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack, of anybody that we love or we represent or our allies or us, they can be very very nervous, I'll tell you what, and they should be very nervous, because things will happen to them like they never thought possible. Okeh?

He's been pushing the world around for a long time, and I have great respect for what China and what Russia did, and those fifteen, we've got a fifteen to nothing vote, I have great respect for China and Russia, what they did on sanctions. I believe that will have an effect. I don't think it will have the kind of effect, even though I was the one, we were the ones that got it, and Nikki Haley did a great job, we all did a great job, but I have great respect for what they did, I have great respect for the fifteen to nothing, but probably it will not be as effective as a lot of people think it can be unfortunately.

REPORTER: Should China do more?

DONALD TRUMP: I think China can do a lot more, yes. China can, and I think China will do a lot more. Look, we have trade with China, we lose hundreds of billions of dollars a year on trade with China. They know how I feel. It's not going to continue like that, but if China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade. A lot differently toward trade. So, we will do I think it's -- the people of our country are safe, our allies are safe, and I will tell you this, North Korea better get their act together, or they're going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world. Okeh? Thank you very much. We're going down to the other side, and we will, we're going to take a few more questions, okeh? Thank you. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: So that was the president of the United States talking about declaring a national emergency in regards to opioids. What that's supposed to mean, no one knows. It would be great if it was a public health emergency, which opened up the ability of jurisdictions around the country to open up syringe exchange programs, syringe service programs. If they were able to open up safe injection sites, so that there would be trained health professionals there on site ready to respond in case of an overdose.

It would be great if it meant an expansion of methadone, with the presidential authority overriding some of these "not in my backyard" types who refuse to allow methadone treatment programs to be located anywhere within -- anywhere within a city. It's really hard to get methadone treatment programs located somewhere. That's why the idea of office-based opioid treatment, office based medication assisted treatment, is such a great thing, because people could simply go to a doctor's office. Those would be great.

My guess is that he's going to look at expanded ideas for law enforcement, and that whole privacy rights waiver that Kellyanne Conway and Tom Price were talking about, to make it easier for other people to find out if you have a prescription for opioids. Because after all, doesn't everyone want every member of their family to know their intimate health details? This is a stupid, stupid idea, but that's our administration. And that's why we have a lot of work to do.

Well, that's it for this week. I thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, I've been your host Doug McVay. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are also available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about the drug war and this century of lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.