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Crawford to use salary in opioid fight if mayor

March 28, 2019 GMT

If elected mayor, Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford will give $40,000 of his annual salary to help fund the fight against the city’s opioid crisis. 

Crawford, a practicing physician, already gives his 128,593. Crawford is still pledging to give the same amount to Questa if elected mayor.

“So the total of what I will pledge is one-half of the mayor’s salary to help the citizens of Fort Wayne,” Crawford said. “I’m going to give the citizens 110 percent of my effort for one-half the price.” 

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Crawford, R-at large, said drug abuse and overdoses have had a major impact on the health and well-being of residents in Fort Wayne and across the country. 

“Something really surprising has happened for the first time in many, many years. The life expectancy in the U.S. has gone down,” Crawford said. “The life expectancy of the average person in the U.S. is now 78.7 years. We now live two years less than most people in equally developed countries and it’s all because of suicides, drug abuse and overdoses, totally.”

The opioid crisis permeates through everything the city does, Crawford said. It increases the cost of medical care covered by the health department, he said, as well as increased crime and costs incurred by Child Protective Services.

“The more people on drugs, the more drug dealers, the more fighting for turf, more shootings, more homicides,” Crawford said. “So it all ties into everything that we’re trying to deal with in Fort Wayne.” 

Crawford also challenged Mayor Tom Henry to allocate 500,000 to the task force last year. 

“If the county can allocate 106 million budget, we surely should be able to allocate 240 million budget,” Crawford said, noting that funding the opioid fight would be one of his top budget priorities, if elected. 

City spokesman John Perlich said Wednesday the 2020 budget process has not started.

Perlich also said the mayor’s administration would need more detail “on what the $500,000 proposal would go toward and ultimately do to help the community.”

Perlich noted that Henry has partnered with local organizations and governmental entities “to make sure residents get the help and treatment they need.” The city is also a part of the Fort Wayne/Allen County opioid task force. Additionally, the city has filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors. 

“That sends a powerful message that we’re doing all we can to reduce the negative impact drugs have on our residents, families and community,” he said. “If we’re successful, that funding would be used to help continue and build upon our enforcement and education efforts.”

In an interview Wednesday, Tim Smith, Crawford’s 2019 primary opponent, said he would look to the private and nonprofit sectors to “cure our social ills.” Smith said he’s concerned with all drug abuse : including alcohol : not just opioids. 

“I believe the government has proven since the Great Society that it is ill-equipped to solve our social ills,” Smith said. “On the other hand, I believe nonprofits, because they’re staffed by people with big hearts, are perfectly positioned for it.” 

If elected, Smith said he would use the power of the mayor’s office to leverage nonprofit resources and encourage collaboration. 

“By leveraging those massive resources, we will make a much more permanent impact on opioids, sex trafficking, homelessness, nutrition, literacy, you name it,” Smith said. “Government is not the answer. My opponent and Mayor Henry turn to the government whenever there’s a problem.” 

dgong@jg.net