Former President Bill Clinton made several stops around Northeast Florida Tuesday, seeing firsthand the effects of Clinton Foundation projects in the area.
In Clay County, Clinton visited the Orange Park Medical Center to look at how the Clinton Foundation is working with local partnerships to fight the opioid epidemic, which President Donald Trump has declared a national health emergency.
Ronnika Thomas, who overcame her drug addiction while pregnant, was happy to share her story with Clinton.
"It was amazing out of all the ears that would want to hear about little old me would be the President," Thomas said.
Thomas was helped by the Azalea Project, a group that helps mothers and infants. The project provides support to at-risk families and mothers facing addiction while pregnant or with young children.
"When I was pregnant with him, I was smoking a lot of cigarettes ... a lot of marijuana," Thomas said. "I couldn't cope with being pregnant with him."
Thomas stopped using drugs and gave birth to a healthy boy.
Clinton also listened as experts explained how they are fighting the epidemic with a database that warns of potential addiction. He also learned about a pill database that tracks who is prescribing power drugs. There was also a Narcan donation of 500 units.
Clinton said he was impressed by the many advances being made at Orange Park Medical Center.
"This is a huge deal," he said. "We worry about all the bad things technology can do. This is a good thing."
Clinton also took a moment to encourage more action from the entire community to fight the opioid epidemic.
"This is a big deal. We got to get people not to be afraid to admit that they have a problem or that they might have a substance that could lead them into a problem," Clinton said. "The worse it gets, it will cost more emotionally and in financial terms then it is to fix."
His words of encouragement may have given the many local organization the extra push needed to fight the opioid epidemic.
Before leaving, Clinton was told that the country needs a nationwide database to track the drugs a patient is prescribed. That would be the next step to help track opioid addiction and manage controlled substances while states continue to fight the opioid epidemic.
From there, Clinton went to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville to meet with a group helping provide healthy food options to those in need throughout Northeast Florida.
Clinton toured the repacking site where students pack up unused food that is given to a local HIV network.
Clinton Health Matters Initiative partnered with the university to improve food access in the area.
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