As the heroin epidemic grips the nation, an early-voting state finds itself at the epicenter. In New Hampshire, where there were at least 295 opioid deaths in 2015, according to the state medical examiner, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is using the Granite State as a backdrop for his drug policy rollout.
His proposed plan, according to a memo released by the campaign, has four tiers: preventing abuse and addiction before it begins; strengthening criminal justice efforts; securing the border; and improving drug abuse treatment plans.
He also aims to identify and shut down so-called pill mills, health care facilities focused on chronic pain treatment that over-prescribe, which can cause and enable addiction. He also will use his experience as a former governor of Florida to expand access to drug courts.
It’s an alternative to a more traditional justice system, offering nonviolent drug offenders the option to obtain treatment under court supervision and monitoring, instead of jail time. He also is a fan of innovation and will encourage the development of opioid-based medications that reduce the risk of addictions, also known as Abuse Deterrent Formulations.
The issue is a personal one for Bush. His only daughter, Noelle, was arrested in 2002 for prescription drug fraud, after trying to buy Xanax using a fake prescription. She went to a drug court and was sentenced to rehab, but was later found to have a small piece of crack cocaine while at a drug treatment center, landing her in jail.
Bush has said her struggles were the hardest thing he’s ever had to endure.
"It's very debilitating when you have a loved one who's struggling and you can't control it," Bush told the Huffington Post. "I don't know what it's like to lose a daughter. But I almost did."
Bush has opened up about his family’s experiences before in New Hampshire at roundtables and during town halls. He will roll out his policy today at New Hampshire Forum on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic.
Such detailed policy proposals are the crux of Bush's campaign. He has unveiled over a dozen specific policy plans, among the most of any candidate in either the Republican or Democratic field.