WASHINGTON ― In the first presidential debate Monday night, Democratic and Republican nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump covered a wide range of topics including trade policy, climate change, income equality and the recent tragic police shootings. Trump even found time to lament the crumbling conditions of the nation’s airports.
But one issue that is ravaging communities and causing thousands of deaths across the country did not get a single mention: the opioid epidemic. During the early days of the primaries, the topic was front and center. Especially in states like New Hampshire, parents who lost loved ones to the epidemic routinely confronted the candidates.
After the primaries ended, the topic has drifted from the spotlight. But overdoses continue to cause turmoil in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. During a six-day stretch in August, Cincinnati had 174 overdoses. That same month, a town in West Virginia experienced 26 overdoses in one night. In late September, Cleveland experienced seven fatal overdoses in a single day.
If she’d been asked about the epidemic, Clinton would have had an answer ready. Last May, she came out with a detailed policy proposal that addressed the crisis. It mirrored what Congress recently passed into law, but added more rigorous funding.
Clinton said she was inspired to confront the problem because of so many grieving families she met in New Hampshire. “This is tearing families apart, but it is below the surface,” she said. “We aren’t talking about it because it is something that is hard to deal with.”
Trump has said he’d combat the epidemic by building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.