The opioid crisis hits close to home for too many Arizonans and Americans. Since 2017, 20,432 Arizonans suffered from an opioid overdose and countless are suffering with destructive addiction today. During the 15-county listening tour I took in my first 90 days as a senator, I heard from every corner of the state about what was on Arizonans’ minds. Far too frequently, I heard about the tragic opioid crisis and how it is affecting families across the state.
Several Arizonans shared their heart-wrenching personal stories with me. When I sat down with Jason Kouts, the mayor of Safford, he told me about his son Josiah’s struggle with opioid addiction and ultimately, his overdose death. My heart breaks for Jason and his family in the loss of their beloved son and all the missed potential from Josiah’s untimely passing. Sadly, so many Arizonans share a similar grief from this deadly epidemic.
When I asked one rural community what local options were available for treatment of those inflicted with addiction, I was told basically none, that they end up in prison or dead. This is simply unacceptable.
For the first time in the United States, people are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a car accident. Opioid overdoses take the lives of more than 130 people every day while others cycle in and out of prison, on the streets, or at home with no hope for relief. As we focus and crack down on illicit opioids, we must be reminded that it isn’t the only addiction crippling our neighbors and loved ones and be vigilant for what will fill the addiction void next. Several rural Arizona communities reported to me that methamphetamine is a bigger or increasing challenge for them, and the cartels will adjust their business model to peddle the next drug that comes along.
President Trump and his administration have made progress combating the crisis by cracking down on the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. In January 2019, Customs and Border Protection staff in Nogales seized 254 pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of meth hidden in the floor of a tractor-trailer attempting to cross the border. Stopping the flow of illicit drugs across our border is crucial, but it is not the only solution to the addiction crisis we face.