Tetra Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie outlined his national drug crisis plan earlier this week — sharing his roadmap that focuses on ending the stigma and turning attention to treatment.

On Wednesday afternoon, Christie spoke at Hope on Haven Hill, a woman’s recovery house in Rochester, New Hampshire, where he directly called out President Joe Biden for staying silent on the issue — bringing up the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who suffers from addiction to drive his point home.

“And this is not a political statement, or partisan statement. He owes it to this country as a father, as a father who understands the pain that every member of the family goes through when there’s someone in active addiction in their family,” Christie said, demanding that the issue be considered a top priority and reaffirming that he will make it one if elected commander in chief next year.

The former New Jersey governor, who served on White House commission on opioid misuse in 2017, complimented former President Donald Trump for enacting his recommendations while on the commission, but insisted much more needs to be done as the issue hasn’t subsided.

Across the country, officials are battling deadly drug abuse. Last year, nearly 110,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC predicts that 28 states are expected to see a rise in overdose deaths from 2022 to 2023.

“Both President Trump and President Biden have treated it as a crisis in name only. And they haven’t done everything that they need to do to keep us making progress. And so as a result, if you don’t make progress you’re falling backwards,” Christie said.

Christie outlined a plan to stem the flow of fentanyl, secure the border, develop stronger posture with Mexico and go directly to the source, China President Xi Jinping.

Also, Christie said he would increase access to treatment by expanding telehealth policies so that it would be available at all federally qualified health centers.

Speaking to a room full of caregivers as well as mothers currently struggling with substance-use disorder, Christie said his plan is all about “basic humanity.”

“We need an approach that remembers and reflects on the very basic humanity of every single one of those 100,000 victims, as well as the treasures each one of them could have brought to this country,” he said.

Christie differentiated himself from other GOP candidates by not pinning the issue solely to the southern border or China. He mentioned that other contenders are “too narrow focused.” During his remarks, he indirectly called out Trump for sending the military to Mexico, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for pledging to shoot drug dealers at the border and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley for cutting off trade with China. Christie alluded that others offer minimalistic solutions that don’t make an indentation to the larger crisis.

“It will be important to stem some of the flow of this stuff into our country, but that’s not going to be what fixes this problem by itself. And people who say that’s what will do it just are not telling the truth,” he said.

It’s an issue that’s deeply personal to Christie after he lost a friend from an overdose. Since then, he and his wife, Mary Pat, have worked to shed light on recovery programs — even before he ran for president.

He met the executive director of Haven Hill, Kerry Norton, back in 2016 while he was still the governor of New Jersey. Although, Norton said she hasn’t decided who she will vote for, she has given the opportunity to each candidate to speak at the center. Only Christie has accepted.

“It’s the people that matter and we do need to be able to support everybody and to support families because that’s what makes communities better as healthy people,” Norton said.

For mothers such as Emma Rosenthal who want recovery programs to be at the forefront of 2024 election, Christie’s refusal to make this issue solely about the “southern border” really resonated with her.

“It’s so much more than just that. It’s so much more than just the wall. The awareness is the biggest piece,” Rosenthal said.


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.