BEDFORD, N.H – Drug abuse was a central topic among voters as the presidential candidates campaigned in New Hampshire in preparation for the state’s primary Tuesday, the first primary election in the nation.
The heroin epidemic and the crisis of addiction were a pressing issue for all candidates during their primary campaigns.
“In November, my cousin came into the emergency room where I work, and he didn’t make it. So my question is, as the next president how will you handle this epidemic?” a woman in the audience asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush paused before he answered. During his campaign tour, he’d heard countless heartbreaking stories similar to hers. He then said that drug abuse was a personal issue to a lot of people, citing his personal experience within his family, but emphasizing that it could affect anyone.
“My daughter kind of spiraled out of control, and it kind of sensitizes you really quick about the problems that many people face,” he said. “So I started campaigning up here and it was shocking to me that so many people have had tragedies of death of overdoes, of people dying.”
When asked about whether he had a solution, Bush pointed to his track record in Florida.
“When I was governor prior to the challenges we faced with our precious daughter, we made this a high priority and my wife led the charge as it related to prevention coalitions. She was the madrina of the 67 prevention coalitions,” he said.
Bush said the drug epidemic is not only a huge problem but a complex one.
“You have mental health challenges combine with addiction. Sometimes it’s dually diagnosed,” he said. “You can go to one doctor and they will say it’s the mental health challenge that makes people drug seeking, or you can go to the same person with the same credentials and say its the other way around.”
Bush said that to combat this epidemic the United States needs to secure the border, strengthen drug abuse treatment and recovery programs and create more drug courts.
“We created drug courts all across the state so that people got second chances, but their adjudication was only withheld when they finished and when they were clean, he said.”
Kevin Cotter, from Nashua New Hampshire, said that this is not just a New Hampshire issue.
“I think that there’s a heroin epidemic that we need to get our hands around and the country needs to get their hands around,” he said.. “I don’t think that’s unique to New Hampshire, I think that’s everywhere.”,