BALTIMORE - A standing ovation greeted Bill Clinton at Johns Hopkins, but the former president quickly hushed the crowd with sobering news that opioid overdoses have now surpassed Aids, guns and traffic accidents as the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50 in this country.
"Virtually all of us know someone in a family that has lost a loved one. Hillary and I have five friends who've lost their children," said Clinton, "One of them had a son who was working for Hillary when he died and had worked for me."
Clinton applauded Baltimore for being the first city to offer the overdose combatting drug, Naloxone, upon request, but Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says the demand is outstripping the supply.
"We're being priced out of the ability to do that,” said Wen, “We're actually having to ration Naloxone every day. I have about 10,000 units of Naloxone to use between now and July of 2018. If I got 10,000 units today, I could give them out by the weekend. That's how much our community is asking for it."
It is a point not lost upon Elijah Cummings who quoted his fellow Maryland congressman, John Pelaney, in expressing his disappointment that President Donald Trump's health emergency declaration over the opioid crisis last week came with no federal funding.
"He says, 'The cost of doing nothing is not nothing.' Tweet that,” said Cummings.
President Clinton is convinced once a model is proven to be effective against opioid addiction and overdoses, the money will come, but that now presents the greatest challenge.
"You should feel, in a funny way, privileged to be here, because you are being asked to turn the tide on a great problem that will preserve the lives of people you don't even know... to do things you can't even imagine," said Clinton.
The former president summarized the immediate task at hand as erasing the stigma of addiction, imploring law enforcers and the courts to treat this as a public health problem and providing life-saving drugs and treatment to people of any means.