Washington, DC: Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Donald J. Trump has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.

Cabinet Room

11:32 A.M. EDT March 29, 2017.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Thank you for being here with us this morning.  During my campaign, I promised to take action to keep drugs from pouring into our country.  And I want to just thank Secretary Kelly; he’s done an amazing job.  Down 61 percent at the border right now in terms of people and the drugs that are being stopped.  It will take longer, and there’s great cooperation with Mexico and others.  But we’re doing a good job.

And we want to help those who have become so badly addicted.  Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States.  Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in our country.  And opioid overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled since 1999.  This is a total epidemic, and I think it’s probably almost untalked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.

Today, we’re bringing together leaders from inside our government and outside of our government, and courageous people who have been affected — and really affected — by this terrible affliction.  In a joint campaign, we want to battle drug addiction and combat opioid, and we have to do it — a crisis.

We’re fortunate to have Governor Chris Christie with us, a friend of mine — a great friend of mine — a very, very early endorser — in fact, an immediate endorser — once he got out of the race.  (Laughter.)  He liked himself more than he liked me.  (Laughter.)  But other than that —

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  I still do, sir, but that’s all right.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Other than that, he’s been great.  And he’s a very effective guy, I will tell you — to have you working on this — and a great moment, actually, if people remember, was you talking about your friend.  That was probably your greatest moment during the campaign for President, and it showed how much you knew about this issue.  So, thank you very much, Chris.

We’ll work directly with representatives from state and local governments, law enforcement, medical professionals, and victims.  I especially want to thank Pam Garozzo — where’s Pam?  Hi, Pam.  How are you? — for being here.  Pam sadly lost her son, beautiful boy, to drug addiction.  And, Pam, we mourn your terrible loss, and we honor your strength and the fact that you’re here.  And he will not have died in vain, okay?  We’ll make sure — he will not have died in vain.  So thank you, Pam.  We appreciate it.

We’re also thankful to welcome AJ Solomon and Vanessa Vitolo, both of whom have fought addiction and are now symbols of hope and recovery, right?  Good job.

We must get our citizens to help, and we need help.  Everybody has to help.  And we will not have to go through what Pam has gone through and so many other families in this country have gone through.  We want to help people like AJ and Vanessa, who struggled through the dark depths of addiction.  Not easy.  Not easy.  And they found this bright promise of recovery.

We wish to also focus on prevention and law enforcement, which is why I’ve issued previous executive actions to strengthen law enforcement and dismantle criminal cartels.  Drug cartels have spread their deadly industry across our nation, and the availability of cheap narcotics — the cheap narcotics — some of it comes in cheaper than candy — has devastated our communities.  It’s really one of the biggest problems our country has, and nobody really wants to talk about it.

Vice President Pence mentioned this coming into the room.  He said, this is a problem like nobody understands.  And I think they’re going to start to understand it.  And, more importantly, we have to solve the problem.

Our Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is working very hard on this problem.  It takes a lot of his time, because this causes so much of the problem that you have to solve — that problem.

So solving the drug crisis will require cooperation across government and across society, including early intervention to keep America’s youth off this destructive path.  We must work together, trust each other, and forge a true partnership based on the common ground of cherishing human life.

So this is a very, very important meeting, and maybe we’ll go around the room and we’ll just say hello to everybody so we all know who we are.  And then the press will leave and we’ll start talking.

General Sessions, we know who you are.  Go ahead.

SECRETARY DeVOS:  Betsey DeVos, Secretary of Education.

Secretary Shulkin:  David Shulkin, Secretary of the VA.

MS. GAROZZO:  Pam Garozzo, parent of Carlos.

MR. SOLOMON:  AJ Solomon.  Thanks for introducing me, Mr. President.

MS. VITOLO:  Vanessa.  Thank you so much for having me.

SECRETARY KELLY:  Secretary Kelly, Homeland Security.

DR. WRIGHT:  Don Wright, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health.

MR. ROSENBERG:  Chuck Rosenberg.  I run the DEA.

MR. BAUM:  Richard Baum, Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

MS. MADRAS:  Bertha Madras, Harvard Medical School.

MS. BONDI:  Pam Bondi, Attorney General of Florida.

MR. RIVERA:  Mariano Rivera, founder of the Mariano Rivera Foundation.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, they could use you now.  (Laughter.)  You know, I think you’d make $100 million a year right.  I tell you, I watched for many years Mariano.  I’d sit with George, and George always felt good when Mariano was —

MR. RIVERA:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  He threw the heaviest pitch any time.  I don’t know — you made the ball like — it weighed 30 pounds, right?

MR. RIVERA:  Something like that.

THE PRESIDENT:  How about the broken bats?  (Laughter.)  How many broken bats?

MR. RIVERA:  Too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  Those bats used to crack, right?  Thank you.  Great honor.

And, Jared, thank you, and Chris.  Chris, why don’t you say a few words?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Mr. President, first, to the President and the Vice President, thank you so much for focusing on this issue.  As you know, Mr. Vice President, as the governor of Indiana for four years, this issue causes enormous pain and destruction to everyday families in every state in this country.  And that’s why, Mr. President, I thought it was so important to bring Pam and AJ and Vanessa here today for you meet them and hear directly from them their stories.  I’m just so honored that the President would ask me to take on this task with the group that we put together.  And I’m thrilled to work with the Attorney General, as well, on the issues of prevention and interdiction of drugs, so we don’t get people hooked in the first place.

But the most important thing to me is, I think the President and I both agree that addiction is a disease, and it’s a disease that can be treated, and that we need to make sure we let people know — the President talked about how folks don’t talk about it.  We talked about cancer, we talk about heart disease, we talk about diabetes, and we’re not afraid to talk about it.  But people are afraid and ashamed to talk about drug addiction.  And while they don’t talk about it, we lose lives — lives of good people.

In the end, the President ended by saying — talking about life.  And he and I are both pro-life.  The difference with the President and I is we’re pro-life for the whole life, not just for the nine months in the womb, but for the whole life.  Every life is an individual gift from God.  And no life is irredeemable, and people make mistakes — we all have.  The people who mistakes of drug use — and it is a mistake — we can’t throw their life away.  The President and I believe that every life is an individual gift from God and is precious.

And I think that’s why it was such an important issue to him in the campaign, and why I’m so honored to work with a President who understands the value of life and the value of second chances.  And that’s what this commission, I hope, is going to be about, to be able to give he and the Vice President the best suggestions we possible can about how to have a national fight against this epidemic.

Mr. President, thank you for your confidence in all of us, and thank you for your support.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Maybe, Vanessa, you can tell a little bit of your story.  We’re so proud of you.

MS. VITOLO:  Don’t put me on the spot, but — (laughter) — so, first of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you so much to brining this whole platform to a national level.  You are literally — everyone at this table is saving lives.  There are people dying every single day, and it’s heartbreaking.

And, Governor Christie, I need you to know that I draw so much strength and courage from you, standing up for people that had nearly given up completely.  That’s extraordinary.

I come from a small town in South Jersey.  My aunt is a teacher, and she taught me the importance of education.  My uncle is a firefighter.  He taught me the importance of law and order.  I went to a private high school.  I was a cheerleader.  I went to college, where I joined a sorority.  After I left college, I had an injury and was prescribed pain killers, and so quickly it took off from there.  I didn’t know anything about heroin.  I was never warned — not that it’s anybody else’s fault; I take full responsibility.

THE PRESIDENT:  So this all began very innocently with an injury.

MS. VITOLO:  Absolutely, yes — with a prescription of pain killers.

THE PRESIDENT:  And what was it?  What was the drug they gave?

MS. VITOLO:  Percocet.

THE PRESIDENT:   I see.

MS. VITOLO:  And then from Percocet, it went to oxy.  And then from oxy, it went to heroin, because it is definitely, like you said, more accessible and so much cheaper.  Very quickly, I lost everything.  I was homeless.  I chose to be homeless.  I was living on the streets of Atlantic City.  I was in and out of jail, and I was lucky enough to see some kind of light where I became a drug court participant — a drug court system that we have in New Jersey, which saved my life.  They sent me to a long-term treatment facility, Integrity House, in New Jersey, and they saved my life.

THE PRESIDENT:  How hard was that, getting off this horrible stuff?  How hard was it for you?

MS. VITOLO:  Physically, it was so hard.  And I felt that was the hardest part.  But then, a couple of months later, comes the psychological aspect of it, and you still think that you need it, because you’re still not as happy when you’re happy, you’re still not as sad.  You have no feelings.  It’s like you’re a shell.  And it takes over your whole life — to choose to be homeless instead of live with your parents; to choose not to speak to your family.

THE PRESIDENT:  And what did your parents say during this whole process?  Because I’m looking at you, you’re like all-American — perfect.  You’re a perfect person.  And I’m saying it’s hard to believe that you’re living on the streets.

MS. VITOLO:  Well, it was so hard for my family.  My mom would drive the streets of Atlantic City begging people to find me.  She couldn’t find me.  I was that lost in every aspect of the word.  In jail — like I said, I was sent to Integrity House, and they saved my life.  They gave me a second chance at life.  And from there, I went to a halfway house, I got a job where I quickly moved up.  I’m now a manager.  Got my own apartment.  I’m graduating drug court this year.  And it’s amazing the opportunities that have been given to me.  I’m sitting across from you right now.  (Laughter.)  Three years ago, I didn’t have a place to live, and today I’m here to represent the light that can be born out of the defeat of this darkness.

There is hope, and there is a tomorrow, and there is a day after that.  You just have to fight for it.  And people have to know that there’s people fighting for them too, because you give up.  There comes a point where you feel as if you have nothing.  You already ruined everything, so there’s no point to get sober.  But I’m here to show you that there is hope.  You can get better.  There is a better way, and there is a better life.  And I wish I could tell you the heartbreak that I feel with the people that are overdosing every day and dying, and the families that have to go through that suffering — because there is no need.  We can help somebody.  We can change this.  And that’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of in my whole life.

And I would like to thank each and every one of you for giving me this opportunity.  It means the world to me.  It is my life.  I used to think that being an addict was my downfall.  But look at me, I’m here today; it’s obviously made me a stronger and better person.

THE PRESIDENT:  Incredible story.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Amazing, amazing job.  Thank you very much, Vanessa.  And we’ll talk to you in a little while.

AJ?  And I know how successful your father is and what a great man he is, so that also put pressure on you in a different way, right?

MR. SOLOMON:  Yeah, well, I didn’t end up going into politics, so — (laughter) —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t do it.  (Laughter.)

MR. SOLOMON:  So Vanessa really spelled it out.  But I grew up in a little town in South Jersey, called Haddonfield.  It’s a picturesque town, really good schools.  My dad now is a Supreme Court justice in the state of New Jersey.  Thank you for the appointment, Governor.  (Laughter.)  And my mom also serves in state government.  And I grew up, I was a good student.  I was an athlete.  And I found alcohol and other drugs, and I was probably well on my way to having an issue, but then I found OxyContin.  My dad got in an accident, and I decided that it would be a good idea to try it.  And that’s really where my story started.

THE PRESIDENT:  Immediately hooked?  Because I hear so much about OxyContin.  Were you immediately hooked?

MR. SOLOMON:  Yeah.  When I did my first one, I remember doing it and thinking, this is how I want to live the rest of my life.  I was always searching for something outside of myself that would make me feel better.  People think the drug is the problem, and to some extent its accessibility is.  But addiction is a disease that I always had, and just had to be unlocked.  And that’s what I feel OxyContin did for me.

And when that happened — you know, now I’m a brother and a son, and a business owner — I own a treatment center, which is awesome.  And I love it.  I’m so happy I went that route instead of — I was on track — I was on the Governor’s advance team.  Not that I didn’t love it.  (Laughter.)  But I really enjoy what I do helping other alcoholics and addicts.  Back then I was —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you have still an alcohol problem?

MR. SOLOMON:  I don’t drink.  I don’t do any drugs.

THE PRESIDENT:  But that was — you could see you were going to have that problem.  But you found this OxyContin?

MR. SOLOMON:  Yes.  And I was a thief and a liar, and I ended up homeless.  Different story — my parents did not want me home.  I was living out of my car, and then I ended up going to a long-term treatment center.  And I accepted what I was, that I was an addict.  And I would rather have died than live with that.  So I left.  My plan was to kill myself.  I wasn’t able to get home.  So I surrendered.

And a lot of people don’t believe this part of the story — and whatever someone’s conception of God or a higher power is –I got on my knees on a shuttle back to treatment; I hadn’t used.  And I said, God either please just let me die — because my plan was to shoot myself; I didn’t have a gun — let me die, or just let me get this.  And I swear to you that that obsession that Vanessa talked about to use was lifted that day.  And my goal now in life is to help another alcoholic and an addict.

And I think — back then I would have rather died than had this disease.  But now, a normal person can be miserable, and they can be angry and resentful, and that’s just how they’ll live their life.  Me, if I get angry, resentful, if I’m miserable, I’ll drink and then I’ll do dope — heroin.  And then I will die.  So I’m grateful.

THE PRESIDENT:  But not — not anymore, right?

MR. SOLOMON:  I don’t have — I’m not allowed to be miserable.  I have to be trying to get the most out of life.  Normal people don’t have that.  They won’t die if they don’t do that.  So I’m grateful that I am what I am.  Yes, I guess that’s it.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s an amazing story.  How did you get off it?  How did you get — did you go to a center or something?  Or what happened?

MR. SOLOMON:  I did.  I went in the mountains in Arizona to this place, and I was only coming off of opiates.  And they said — it was this tall guy, I’ll never forget — his name was Bird — he said, what are you coming off of?  I said, opiates.  He said, you don’t need detox.  You’ll feel like you’re going to die, but you won’t die.  And they put me in the center, and I detoxed cold turkey.  And —

THE PRESIDENT:  And what was that like?

MR. SOLOMON:  It’s like 20 times worse than the flu, but the anxiety is the worst part, the suicidal ideations crawling out of your skin.  I mean, if I had drugs in front of me, I would have done them.

THE PRESIDENT:  So he was right?

MR. SOLOMON:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, he was right.

THE PRESIDENT:  But you got through it?  How long did that take?

MR. SOLOMON:  Two weeks.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was two weeks of — they used to call it cold turkey, right?

MR. SOLOMON:  Cold turkey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do they still do that?

MR. SOLOMON:  Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  No way.  So you went through two weeks of that, and that was hell?

MR. SOLOMON:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  But then you knew you were going to get better?

MR. SOLOMON:  No, then the mental obsession came, and I wanted to use so badly, but I had accepted what I was, and I knew I couldn’t.  So I wanted the obsession to stop.  I wanted my brain to stop yelling at me to pick up.  I didn’t want to be that person anymore.  So I figured I’d kill myself, and it would stop.  But my dad — you talked about how powerful he is, he somehow cancelled all my personal credit cards.  I still don’t know how he did it.  (Laughter.)  And I wasn’t able to get on a plane to get home to get what I needed to end my life.  And so I got on my knees and prayed, and that was really the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  So he did you a great service when he did that?

MR. SOLOMON:  He did.

THE PRESIDENT:  Smart guy.  You have done an amazing job.  It’s so great.  Not easy.  Not easy, right, AJ?

MR. SOLOMON:  No, not easy.

THE PRESIDENT:  But we’re very proud of you.  (Applause.)

Chris.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:  Mr. President, Pam works in the New Jersey State Department of Education.  And she’s someone who came to the candlelight vigil that I held right before Christmas for addicts in New Jersey and their families.  And Pam wants to tell you the story about her son, Carlos.

MS. GAROZZO:  Yes.  First of all, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Cabinet, and guests, this is an extreme honor.  I am here unfortunately because my son is no longer here.

As Governor Christie said, I came to his candlelight vigil celebrating the fact — with our Education Commissioner, who is my boss — that my son was 10 months clean.  He had been a year and a half clean before that, before he had a relapse — one of many, one of several.  Just celebrating his life and celebrating the lives of everybody who are in recovery.

And then later in December — actually before that, I just want to introduce you.  This is my son, Carlos.  He’s wearing a suit because on December 3rd — this is not his — was not his normal attire as a 23-year-old.  On December 3rd, he was here at my church with my husband, Mike, and me — Mike, who is seated behind me and to the left — walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, one of the happiest days of my life.  Carlos was healthy, happy, thriving, working, getting ready to go back to school, had a job, had a steady girlfriend, had everything together — 10 and a half months clean.

So celebrating him at the candlelight vigil, previously having been at our wedding on December 3rd, and then three weeks later, on December 23rd, two police detectives show up at our door and tell me the news that no parent ever wants to hear.  And we just didn’t understand.  Because this is a disease, you don’t understand the dynamics of it.  You can’t — you’re not — nothing prepares you for this journey.

Unfortunately, my son OD’d after having been clean for 10 and a half months — OD’d on a drug that was laced with fentanyl.  So he died pretty quickly.

THE PRESIDENT:  Which is getting worse and worse I hear, Jeff.

MS. GAROZZO:  Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Getting just out of control.

MS. GAROZZO:  So Carlos started smoking marijuana when he was 15 and a half years old, and for him — and he’d be the first to tell you this — it’s absolutely for him a gateway drug.  It led to heroin, cocaine, crystal meth.  At 18, when he was a senior in high school, with months to graduate, he had a crystal meth overdose.  And by the time I got to the hospital — because his friend drove him there; I didn’t even know that he was doing this to this extent — by the time I got to the hospital, the ER doctor came out and said, you need to call your family now; we don’t think there’s anything we can do for your son.

We managed to transfer him to another hospital.  He got the care that he needed.  He was in a coma for three days and suffered some minor memory loss from that.

And of course, at this time as an 18-year-old, said, oh, I’m never going to touch anything again, I’m going to stay clean.  We had him in a program.  But less than a couple months later, he’s back on the streets not only taking drugs, but got caught smoking pot, ended up in jail.  I had told him early on, I will put every penny, every dime I have into your recovery and getting you clean and helping you stay clean and supporting you 100 percent.  But if you end up in trouble with the law, there is nothing I’m doing for you because you have to figure out the way out of that.

So he was in jail a couple of times.  He actually went through cold turkey in jail getting clean.  When he was clean for a period of almost a year and a half, during that time he was going back to school.  He was at this point around 20 years old — 20, 21 — was working, volunteering at a recovery house, working with people trying to help them work through their program.  He spoke regionally at a conference in West Virginia.  They selected him because he’s a young kid, and they figured he would be a good spokesperson, maybe be able to speak to people’s hearts.

Sadly, as I said, he did pass.  Nothing in parenting prepares you to deal with the fact that Mike and I will outlive our son; that his sisters, who he idolized and who were so close to him, won’t see him anymore; that there will be empty seats at the Thanksgiving table; that Christmas presents — we won’t be able to give.  I’ll miss his laughter.  I’ll miss his smile.  I’ll miss him, his hug.  I’ll miss his dry, witty sense of humor.

When I asked him if he was walking down the aisle for my wedding to Mike, he asked me, what does that entail?  Sure, I think I can do it.  But what does that mean?  And I said — I explained to him, and he said, oh, but I’m pretty sure — I’ve watched enough TV to know that I have to take Mike on a fishing trip and see if he measures up.  (Laughter.)

He was constantly — he’s just that kind of guy.  He was just — I had people coming up to us at the life celebration, saying, your son is amazing.  You don’t know, your son saved me.  Your son was one of the people who came and dragged me out of Philly, the tenement house that I was living in, a flophouse, and took him in his place and gave him money that he really didn’t have, just to — brought me to meetings.

So this is why I’m here.  I’m here because I’d like to see nationally what’s happening — what Governor Christie has managed to have happen in New Jersey, with, of course, the help of the legislators there to make the programs for recovery accessible and affordable to all.  Because this is — I was fortunate to have a good insurance plan.  But there did come a point where Carlos needed to be in a program that wasn’t entirely covered by insurance, and they wanted to exit him in four days.

Now, four days in a recovery program — for those of you who have had no experience — you guys know — that’s nothing.  Carlos begged to stay in.  So we scrambled, got the money, and were able to keep him in.

I’m here so that parents — no parent should have to bury their child.  No parent should have to wander — as Vanessa said, I did the drives looking for Carlos all hours of the day and night.  Nobody should have to go through this.  This is entirely something that can be dealt with, and I appreciate what you are willing to do in shedding a light on this.

THE PRESIDENT:  If Carlos stayed longer in the program, would he have been in better shape?  Would it have possibly saved him?  Or not really?

MS. GAROZZO:  Well, I think so.  He was in a couple of programs for a period of — one program that was —

(Participant coughs.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you want some water?  Are you okay?

MS. GAROZZO:  I’m good.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m just saying — behind you.  I thought she —

MS. GAROZZO:  Oh, I’m sorry.  (Laughter.)

He was in a program for 35 days.  That was his most successful program.  As AJ mentioned, Carlos had an underlying problem with self-esteem and feeling good about himself.  He just never could quite get there — even though he was an accomplished musician.  He had a scholarship to a prestigious university.  As a freshman going in, he was accepted into an engineering program that normally that didn’t happen.  He had a lot of gifts and talents, but he just never saw them.  He was always looking for how can I escape.  And like AJ, he also thought several times about suicide.

So I think it’s treating the whole person.  It’s not just the disease of addiction, but it’s what is causing you to go after the drugs, to seek it out, to stay with it.  And once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.  But how can you work within yourself, with help, to feel good about yourself, to feel that you’re worthy.  Everybody is loved.  Everybody should feel loved.  As Governor Christie said, every life is a precious life.  And I believe, Governor, you also said that every life is worthy of being reclaimed.  And unfortunately, Carlos couldn’t entirely reclaim his life.

And behind everybody who is trying — who’s suffering with addiction or in recovery, there’s parents and there’s family just like me.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Pam.  Carlos sounds like he was a great guy, and I know how tough it is.  So many people go through it, and we appreciate you being here.

MS. GAROZZO:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeff, do you have anything to say?

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS:  Well, I just want to thank you for sharing your stories because that’s what we’re all here about, and we’re seeing a surge in drug abuse and addiction.

The New England Journal of Medicine had — I think our DEA commissioned it — pointed out that with regard to heroin, we’ve got more availability, lower price, and much higher purity.  That creates more addiction quicker, I think.  And it’s a very dangerous situation.  You throw fentanyl into that too.  And I do believe, Mr. President, we took — when I became a United States attorney in ’81, and the President and others led, the Education Department led — and it took 20 years, but we reduced drug abuse in America, addiction and death dramatically.

It’s begun now to start back up.  And I think if we apply —

THE PRESIDENT:  When did this start again?  It’s so bad.  When did it start, would you say — over the last how many years — where it really took the big spike up?

ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS:  I think the fentanyl brought the — if you noticed here — Chuck, maybe — the DEA Director Chuck Rosenberg —

THE PRESIDENT:  You would know that.  When do you think it really started spiking up, Chuck?

MR. ROSENBERG:  Mr. President, there have been spikes in the past.  We’ve seen spikes in ’05, ’06, and ’07.  I’d say in the last eight to ten years, though, the trajectory has been awful.  And there’s a number of pieces to it.

One is that we consume, as Americans, most of the world’s supply of hydrocodone and oxycodone.  And as these good folks have attested to, once you get hooked on that, heroin is cheaper and more plentiful.  And folks just make that transition.

We have to change the culture.  I think we can.  One of the things we do at DEA — and I’m extraordinarily proud of our men and women — we do law enforcement really well.  But ever since I was a brand, new federal prosecutor many, many years ago, I never thought we would enforce or prosecute our way out of this.  That’s part of it.  It’s a really important part of it.

But we’ve also at the DEA now turned to education, prevention.  We talked about those things all the time.  I want folks to know, if I may, sir, we do a national takeback program twice a year.  The next one is on April 29th, and people can drop off at 5,000 sites around the country — courtesy of DEA and our local partners — anything in their medicine cabinet that they don’t want.  Last year, we took in 1.6 million pounds of stuff.  It includes everything.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.

MR. ROSENBERG:  But we’re going to do that relentlessly twice a year, encourage people to turn in these drugs, and try and break this cycle.

THE PRESIDENT:  So it’s been really — it spiked over the last eight to ten years.  Would that have anything to do with the weakening of the borders?  Because a lot of it comes from the southern border.

MR. ROSENBERG:  A lot of it comes through Mexico.  A lot of it is in produced in Mexico.  I should say this:  We’ve worked closely with our Mexican counterparts.  There are a lot of brave men and women down there trying to help us do what we do.  Secretary Kelly knows that as well as anyone.

A lot of it also comes from Asia.  I was recently in China; I met with our counterparts there.  A lot of the synthetics, fentanyl and carfentanyl, which is even worse than fentanyl, is produced in China.  Our Chinese counterparts have added some of those drugs to their banned list, precluding it from — or hopefully precluding it from leaving China and coming to North America.

So there’s a lot of work to be done.  You got a lot of smart people around this table.  But I can tell you from the perspective of the DEA, sir, law enforcement is crucial.  Education and prevention and treatment is equally crucial.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Chuck.

All right, thank you very much, folks.

Q    Will you talk about this on the road?  Are you going to take this on the road, President Trump?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we will.  It’s a big issue — very, very big issue.  Thank you, thank you.

END
12:05 P.M. EDT