A holistic approach is needed to battle the opioid crisis that has gripped many parts of the country, fueled in part by the high volume of drugs that come across the southern border, Arizona officials said Wednesday.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation along with Gov. Doug Ducey and top law enforcement officials made the comments during a Homeland Security congressional subcommittee hearing in Phoenix.
Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican running for the U.S. Senate, hosted the hearing. She said 90 percent of the nation’s illegal drugs come through ports of entry, often hidden in car compartments. McSally said it takes more than just law enforcement to battle drug abuse.
But some Democrats at the hearing criticized Republicans for their past support of legislation that would curb Medicaid and programs to treat addiction.
“How can we fight opioid addiction, how can Arizona take it seriously, while at the same time we’re taking efforts to gut Medicaid?” U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego asked Ducey. The Republican governor said he doesn’t think the two issues are mutually exclusive.
Ducey on Tuesday said he was ending the public health emergency declaration he issued last year in an effort to combat opioid abuse. The initiative helped create a new reporting and information-sharing system on abuse while also providing training on use of a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose to 1,000 police officers around the state, according to a news release.
McSally lauded the governor’s efforts, but said border security was also an important component.
McSally said a shortage of Customs and Border Protection officers at the state’s port of entries is at a crisis level even as officers from elsewhere in the country have been sent to Arizona to assist.
“It’s critical, as we talked about today, for our border security because a lot of these drugs are coming through the ports of entry on people or in deeply concealed compartments that are very difficult to detect,” McSally said.