Hillary Clinton Calls For Public Health Approach To Opioid Epidemic

“The policing needs to change."

During Sunday night's Democratic debate, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton talked about the experiences she’s had on the campaign trail meeting those who have been affected by the opioid epidemic.

It’s become a frequent topic for her and her supporters -- the crisis is a top issue for New Hampshire voters. Clinton was the first presidential candidate to come out with a plan to address the epidemic months ago.

“Everywhere I go to campaign, I’m meeting families who are affected by the drug problem that mostly is opioids and heroin now and lives are being lost and children are being orphaned,” Clinton said at the debate, which took place in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ve met a lot of grandparents who are now taking care of grandchildren. So I have tried to come out with a comprehensive approach that number one does tell the states that we will work with you… putting more money, about a billion dollars a year, to help states have a different approach to dealing with this epidemic.”

What would that approach look like under a Clinton administration? Clinton was emphatic that would be a public health approach -- and singled out law enforcement as critical. She called on police officers to carry naloxone (commonly sold as Narcan). Some departments have refused to use it.

“The policing needs to change,” Clinton said. “Police officers must be equipped with the antidote to a heroin overdose or an opioid overdose known as Narcan. They should be able to administer [it], so should firefighters and others.”

And Clinton added: “We have to move away from treating the use of drugs as crime and instead move it to where it belongs as a health issue. And we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts, into treatment and recovery."

Read the latest updates on the debate here.

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