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Trump in Atlanta vows to fight opioid abuse epidemic

Jeremy Redmon and Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

"We are holding Big Pharma accountable," he said, eliciting applause. "They have got to do what is right."

Before the event, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway described Trump's address as a "progress report" on the administration's opioid policies. While he didn't outline any new plans, she said the administration would also support legislation that would stiffen penalties on drug traffickers who distribute fentanyl and other opioids.

Trump's early-afternoon arrival snarled traffic in the heart of Atlanta as his motorcade traveled from the airport to the hotel. Streets were lined with workers, tourists and others who craned their necks for a glimpse of any VIPs.

More than 100 demonstrators gathered at Woodruff Park in downtown ahead of the president's speech, before marching toward the Hyatt Regency. Their banners and posters declared: "Let's change wall into welcome y'all" and "No! The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go." Dozens of police, many on bicycles, monitored their movements and blocked some roads.

Democrats on Wednesday accused the president of undermining the fight against the opioid epidemic through his efforts to scrap the Affordable Care Act.

"The bottom line is that Trump is trying to talk out of both sides of his mouth on opioid abuse," U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said in a prepared statement.

 

State Sen. Nan Orrock, a Democrat, echoed Johnson.

"We have an epidemic in this state," she said. "And what's the biggest tool that we have for fighting the opioid crisis? It's Medicaid. Yet we see in Congress and from the White House massive efforts to gut Medicaid and take apart this tool."

Trump got backup from the state's Republican hierarchy, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who both greeted him at Hartsfield-Jackson as Air Force One touched down. Several members of Georgia's congressional delegation praised Trump's initiative.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson noted the crisis has "touched so many families, including my own." He added: "Georgia and states across the country, along with our medical community and first responders, now have better tools to fight this epidemic to help more Georgians and Americans."

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