Republican Presidential Candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz participated in the Addiction Policy Forum’s New Hampshire Roundtable on Addiction and the Heroin Epidemic at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hooksett, NH on February 4, 2016. Senator Cruz shared powerful personal testimony to a crowd of around 200 New Hampshirites. He also engaged in a roundtable discussion with addiction professionals and leaders in the field from around the country.
“We just got the call one day that Miriam was gone.”
Senator Cruz began his testimony by acknowledging the severity of the epidemic, sharing such statistics as: “48% of the people in New Hampshire personally know someone who has abused heroin in the last five years,” and that “nearly two-thirds of adults under 35 personally know someone who’s abused heroin in the last five years.” Cruz also acknowledged his understanding that “addiction is a disease.”
Senator Cruz then shared the story of his sister, Miriam. While struggling with alcohol and drugs most of her life, Miriam became addicted to painkillers after a car accident and floated between jail and crack houses. When Sen. Cruz and his father tried to intervene, they were stonewalled and, a few years later, Miriam died of a drug overdose. Cruz then went on to retell the story of his father, Rafael, and his success in overcoming addiction to alcohol by turning to God and the church. Following his April 15, 1975 conversation with a pastor from Clay Road Baptist Church, Rafael converted to Christianity, became a preacher himself and has been sober for 40 years.
Prevention, Treatment and Recovery
“It’s going to be friends and family, churches, charities, loved ones, treatment centers, people working to help those who are struggling to overcome their addiction… [to] get that monkey off their back.”
In denouncing top-down, federally mandated addiction solutions, Senator Cruz noted that it would be “friends and family, churches, charities, loved ones treatment centers…” that would do the most to help people overcome addiction.
Drawing on his father’s experience, Sen. Cruz also spoke very highly of faith-based approaches to recovery from addiction: “Faith and a relationship with God can be a powerful, powerful element of turning it [addiction] around. That’s why the church plays such an important role… Those programs are what we need more and more, of helping people. Get them back on their feet.”
Law Enforcement and Border Security
“The border is utterly unsecured… If we want to turn around the drug crisis, we have got to finally and permanently secure our border.”
Senator Cruz lamented the state of our borders with Mexico, which he calls “an absolute disgrace.” He cited statistics noting that “heroin confiscation at the border has increased from about 556 kilos in 2008 to 2100 kilos in 2012… You have drugs flooding into this country and yet people in New Hampshire and elsewhere sometimes, they start with prescription and painkillers but those become harder and harder to get and they’re more expensive and it’s cheaper and easier to go with heroin… heroin usage just exploded.” According the Sen. Cruz, the best way to attack the drug epidemic is to “finally and permanently secure” the border, cutting off the supply of heroin.
“There is no uniform solution that fixes it all. It’s certainly not going to be Washington DC that steps in and solves these problems… It’s not going to be the government that solves this. That it is going to take people on the ground, connecting directly, one person at a time, churches and charities and people have to make personal transformations.”
While Senator Cruz stated that addiction is a disease, he did not share a concrete proposal to address the epidemic. He stated support for treatment and recovery services at the local level – services provided by churches and the community – and proposed expediting a strong crackdown on drug-trafficking at the border (by securing it with investments in technological assets) to reduce the supply of drugs coming into the country.
Although Senator Cruz stated that solutions should not come from the federal government, a central theme of response to addiction, the Senator did say – when prompted by a roundtable participant – that “There is no doubt that there is a role for government and an important role for government. And so, you know, I’m supporting legislation right now in the Senate that would direct funds to drug treatment and rehabilitation and I think that that’s important to do…
I very much agree that we have to have resources directed, on the medical side as well – absolutely.” Sen. Cruz is most likely referring to S. 524/H.R. 953, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 11, 2016 by unanimous consent and would provide nearly $80 million in grant funding to address the epidemic in a comprehensive manner.