For years, our country, and New Hampshire specifically, have been facing a public health emergency. The opioid epidemic has impacted each of us in some way. In 2017, our state ranked fourth in the nation in opioid deaths per capita. We’ve lost sons, daughters, siblings, parents and neighbors. Our children live in the shadows of the opioid crisis, left parentless, cared for by family members, or trapped in limbo in the foster care system.

In the N.H. House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, we are looking for ways to find our way forward by looking at drug use as a medical matter instead of a criminal matter. In House Bills 1671 and 1625, we are looking at reducing drug penalties. We want to divert users from jail cells to turning their lives around with an intervention.

We owe families across New Hampshire and the United States bold, powerful solutions to address the opioid crisis and support individuals struggling with addiction. Too many lives have been lost, and it’s past time that we respond to this epidemic with the courage to test new solutions, ones we’ve never tried before.

Andrew Yang is the only candidate committed to championing policies that will drastically transform how we view drugs, treat addiction and make health care available to all Americans.

Yang will prioritize decriminalizing small doses of opioids for personal use. In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption and possession of all illegal drugs. Over the course of 17 years, the number of heroin users in Portugal dropped from 100,000 to 25,000. By decriminalizing small amounts of opioids for personal use, we can shift our focus away from punishment and on to treatment.

Alongside reforming our drug policies, improving the availability of health care resources is a crucial aspect of battling the opioid crisis. Yang proposes drastically increasing federal funding for recovery and treatment programs, which would be paid for by implementing new taxes on pharmaceutical companies that have played a heavy-hand in the over-prescription of opioids across the country. His plan would quintuple federal funding, from $4.5 to $20 billion per year, which would be made available at the local level for programs focusing on treatment and rehabilitation.

In a state in which health care is extremely expensive, more funding for treatment centers and programs would impact hundreds, potentially thousands, of individuals in need of support.

JOHN BORDENET

22 Woodbury St

Keene

(This writer represents Cheshire District 5 in the N.H. House.)