ATLANTA – President Obama was in town Tuesday at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit to address the growing problem of addiction in the U.S.
Tuesday’s summit tackled multiple topics – among them, how addiction to heroin and prescription drug abuse can affect anyone. During the panel discussion, the President also outlined systematic solutions.
“President Obama has helped transform this from a ‘bad people doing bad things’ to ‘this is a health issue,’” Mendell said.
He said he was grateful for the President’s attention, but critical of the pace of public policy. Mendell has been touched personally by the battle against addiction – his son Brian took his life out of what Mendell called “shame.”
“If this were Ebola or if this were Zika Virus, and this were spreading around the country where 30,000 people could die in a year of either one of those two, you wouldn’t see a process that takes years. You would see a process that takes days and weeks,” he said. “There would be an executive order tomorrow. This is spreading like an infectious disease.”
For many families battling addiction, that process toward change can’t come soon enough.
“It’s about time,” said Tanya Smith. “Honestly, my reaction is it’s about time.”
Smith, who lost her daughter Taylor in 2013, was featured in 11Alive’s investigative web series “Inside the Triangle.” Since, she’s devoted her life to helping other families.
She spoke to the financial burden of fighting addiction during 11Alive’s own heroin summit on Friday. Smith was at Tuesday’s summit on behalf of the Davis Direction Foundation, and she said hearing the President’s commitment comes with new hope.
“Let’s hope that the funding is quick and immediate because there are several families out there that are struggling with the financial burden that their loved ones' addiction have put on them," she said. "Knowing that that money is coming, knowing that assistance is out there is going to be fantastic news for these families. I just hope that is happens and it happens quick.”
Recent numbers show nearly 30,000 people die each year from prescription drugs and heroin. That number is higher than the number of deaths from car crashes. The President says the number of deadly accidents was once much higher, but a systematic approach to turn it around worked.
He believes the same can be done for heroin abuse.
Taylor Smith | 'She asked me to understand her'
WATCH | "Inside the Triangle"
Photos | President Obama arrives in Atlanta