By Andre F. Puglie
June 1, 2015
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton plans to turn substance abuse and mental health into key issues of her 2016 White House campaign, the Washington Post reported.
The former secretary of state's policy advisers have already been in talks with stakeholders in Iowa and New Hampshire: top aides Ann O'Leary and Maya Harris, for instance, participated in Google hangouts on Thursday and Friday with treatment providers, law-enforcement officers and local politicians, the newspaper detailed.
Clinton last month had promised she would make the treatment issues a "big part" of her campaign after hearing about them on the campaign trail in the states, which hold the key first-in-the-nation caucuses and primaries, respectively, according to the Associated Press.
"This is a quiet epidemic and it is striking in small towns and rural areas as much as any big city," Clinton said during an event in Keene, New Hampshire, after a participant told the former first lady about drug addiction in her family and asked her to weigh in on the issue.
O'Leary and Harris, meanwhile, invited Tym Rourk, the chair of the New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, to be part of the conversation, the Huffington Post noted.
"Nobody has the option anymore to talk about addiction in the abstract, as if it happens to somebody else," Rourk insisted. "What we're dealing with right now is something where you can't walk into a room in the state of New Hampshire and not have somebody sitting there who - either directly, or in their family or in their social circles - knows somebody who has been impacted by this issue."
Ideas and challenges discussed in the events included a focus on prevention and treatment over criminalization; a nationwide shortage of treatment capacity; and how to adequately fund and provide access to mental-health and substance-abuse treatment programs.
The Clinton campaign promised to roll out specific policy proposals in those areas in the coming weeks and months, unnamed officials told the AP.