Melania Trump at a Las Vegas town hall called on the community to educate children about the risks of opioid use.
“It is the worst drug crisis in American history, and as such, the president declared it a public health emergency,” the first lady told a crowd of a few hundred Tuesday at the Westgate.
She was joined by conservative TV commentator Eric Bolling, who moderated the event.
Bolling, who lost his son in 2017 to a drug overdose, asked Trump about her Be Best campaign, which aims to improve the overall well-being of children through the elimination of drug use, limiting negative social media interactions and promoting values such as healthy living and kindness.
Trump said in her speech that the campaign has focused mainly in the past year on infants born addicted to opioids who then go through withdrawal, called neonatal abstinence syndrome. But now her focus has expanded, she said.
“I have learned that we have a responsibility to not just ourselves but also those who may be struggling around you,” she said.
After her approximately nine-minute speech, Bolling asked Trump whether she felt reporters were covering opioid abuse fairly. She said in her speech she wished reporters would dedicate “the same amount of coverage (to the opioid issue) that you do to idle gossip or trivial stories.”
He also asked Trump personal questions, including how she teaches her son, Barron, about drug misuse.
“I try to teach him and explain to him how drugs are dangerous,” she responded. “It will mess up your head. It will mess up your body.”
The first lady said she believed reducing stigma surrounding drug addiction would cut the number of opioid overdoses nationwide.
“We need to talk about it, and whoever has a problem should not be afraid to come forward and ask for help,” Trump said.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency acting administrator Uttam Dhillon, who took the stage after Trump’s half-hour appearance, said the increase in drug overdose deaths is slowing as the agency hires more enf
“We’re making progress, but we have a long way to go,” said Dhillon, who said restricting the supply of opioids, including fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine, could further improve the situation.
In the meantime, he said, prescription of opioids has decreased about 20 percent from its peak.
In response to questions about how a proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border could impact opioid distribution, Dhillon, after first deferring to the Department of Homeland Security, said drug trafficking poses one of the “greatest criminal threats to the country.”
“If you block every port of entry, I promise you, they have ways to bring drugs between the ports of entry,” Dhillon said.
Entertainer Wayne Newton and Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel and his wife, Jackie, also participated in the event, as did Jerry Falwell Jr., and his wife, Becki. The Siegels lost their 18-year-old daughter, Victoria, to a drug overdose in 2015.
Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is a supporter of President Donald Trump.
Legislators and leaders in health care nationwide and in Nevada have poured resources into taming what is referred to as an opioid crisis. Opioid overdoses killed nearly 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump visited Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, on Monday to promote her anti-abuse campaign.