As a father, I have felt the heartbreak of drug abuse. My daughter Noelle suffered from addiction, and like many parents facing similar situations, her mom and I struggled to help. I have so many friends and know so many families who have faced this terrible challenge.
Addiction crosses all barriers, all lines, all races and all incomes. It creates real hardship and heartbreak in families. And, it places substantial demands on government at every level. I never expected to see my precious daughter in jail. It wasn’t easy, and it became very public when I was governor of Florida, making things even more difficult for Noelle.
She went through hell, so did her mom, and so did I. It’s very debilitating when you have a loved one who is struggling, and you can’t control it. You have to love them, but you also have to make it clear you cannot enable the behavior that gets them in trouble. Showing a lot of courage, Noelle graduated from drug court.
Drug courts use a restorative solution model involving multi-disciplinary coordination, including the judiciary, the prosecution, mental-health specialists, social services and treatment professionals. I was the proud dad that saw Noelle finish that. She's drug-free now.
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As governor, I used a combination of strategies to help reduce heroin use among youth in Florida by approximately 50 percent. As president, I will lead this country to dramatically reduce drug abuse.
The country’s massive heroin and illicit drug epidemic is compounded and fueled by sharp increases in the abuse of prescription painkillers. The problem is exacerbated by huge increases in the availability of cheap, highly potent heroin, primarily the result of Mexican drug cartels getting involved in the production, trafficking and distribution of heroin and other illicit drugs.
Some label the drug-abuse epidemic just a criminal-justice issue, and some try to make it just a health care issue. Both approaches oversimplify this complex and heartbreaking challenge.
It is imperative to reduce both the demand and supply if treatment and recovery programs are going to work. To win this fight across the country, I believe we need a multi-faceted strategy that prevents drug abuse and addiction before it begins. Drug abuse and addiction prevention efforts must start in childhood. That begins with dedicated parents, strong communities and local education.
The private sector must also be committed to joining this fight to achieve success, including coalitions driven by local communities and involving health, local law enforcement and social services professionals.
When I was governor of Florida, my wife, Columba, took a very active role in prevention efforts with children, treatment facilities focusing on women with children and struggling children and coordination of a resource network for local communities at the county level.
I will ensure federal law enforcement agencies have the resources they need, support policies that distinguish pill mills from evidence-based pain clinics, and broaden access to drug courts, an alternative to the traditional punishment system so that nonviolent drug offenders obtain treatment and recovery support.
I will also enact smarter sentencing laws for drug offenders, with stiff consequences for drug lords, cartels and violent drug traffickers, while ensuring nonviolent drug offenders obtain the necessary treatment and more quickly return to their communities with reduced mandatory sentences.
I will secure the border to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the United States, given that most heroin enters from Mexico. I will work with partner nations, such as Mexico, Colombia and Afghanistan, to address the source of illicit drugs and interdict illicit drug trafficking.
I will strengthen and coordinate Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to monitor and analyze electronic prescribing and dispensing data. I will promote innovation for a suite of treatment and recovery tools that align with individuals’ unique medical needs and beliefs.
And I will conduct a rigorous evaluation of existing prevention, treatment and recovery programs to ensure funding supports evidence-based programs that consistently monitor results.
Drug abuse and addiction hurts Americans from all walks of life. It is a complex problem that requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted solution. It will take real leadership that makes solving the problem a top priority. I’ve successfully fought this epidemic as a governor, but more importantly, I’ve experienced it as a father.
We know how to make a difference in this fight, and with the right leadership and solutions, we will.
Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.