Don’t overshadow the opioid battle

The 2016 campaign season is over, but political stunts are timeless.

There are some grandstanding efforts, however, that shouldn’t need the extra attention to showcase or impress upon the public the seriousness of an issue.

Last Friday, New Hampshire’s two Democratic senators joined nearly two dozen others – not surprisingly, all Democrats – in a letter to President Trump calling on the administration not to "pull the rug out from under the state fighting" the opioid crisis. In it, they say repealing the Affordable Care Act without a GOP-friendly alternative risks treatment and recovery services in the midst of this epidemic.

Democrats couldn’t find one Republican in a state battling opioid addiction – Ohio’s Rob Portman and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito come to mind – to fit atop the soapbox?

Penning a letter is one of the most common ways to plead for attention – reading mean tweets would have been equally effective and more entertaining – and so commonplace they are often overlooked or completely ignored.

For example, more than 30 Republicans signed onto a flashy one in December 2015 calling on the Obama administration not to lift sanctions on Iran, more it seems to re-enforce their stance rather than offer the president a varied opinion.

That said, this is an incredibly important issue in New Hampshire and deserves more action than a cheerleading Democratic endorsement. And to be fair to both senators, Hassan and Shaheen have been in-step with every major development in the battle against substance misuse.

In their argument, the senators note bipartisan legislation provides $1 billion in federal grant funding to some of the hardest-hit states, including New Hampshire, over a two-year period. Such achievements are "fundamentally undermined" with repeal, the senators contend.

"In addition to hurting millions of Americans struggling with addiction, cutting funding for substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services could significantly increase costs to our health care system and taxpayers in the long-run," they write in the letter. "According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines already cost our health care system $11 billion annually."

Their viewpoint is not unjustified.

Those on the frontline fighting the influx of heroin and Fentanyl overdoses said Granite Staters requiring treatment will be left without care and without options for help.

"I’m paid to worry, and I’m worried," said Peter Kelleher, CEO of the Partnership for Successful Living, an organization that offers treatment and recovery services in Nashua through Harbor Homes, in a Jan. 27 event. "Just knowing (those in need) had some health insurance was a small ingredient in that decision."

The public will likely be persuaded by medical and social service experts who see the impact of addiction rather than coaxed by a letter from Democratic senators.

So is this political grandstanding? Fair to say it falls in that category. Given the crisis, is it a worthy swing for the fences? You bet – shout it from the rooftops, flood inboxes with emails and yes, sign grandstanding letters from Capitol Hill, until we find a way to end this crisis.