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Clinton Presses for Medical Approach to Opioid Crisis

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop in Charleston, West Virginia, May 3, 2016.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton issued a call Tuesday for more medical treatment and less incarceration for the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States.

Clinton spoke at a campaign panel discussion in West Virginia, a jurisdiction that recorded 630 deaths last year from prescription drug overdoses.

"We can't incarcerate our way out of the problem," she told the panel and audience. She also described how she and her husband, Bill Clinton, have been personally impacted by opioid abuse in young adults.

"Bill and I now have five family friends who have lost their adult children to opioid overdose ... both in their early 20s and 30s," she said. She described one of the dead as an intern who had worked at the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State.

She used the forum to advocate for drug courts, where judicial attention is focused on recovery and treatment programs rather than jails.

Clinton is on a two-day tour of the Appalachian region, ahead of Democratic primaries set for May 10 in West Virginia and May 17 in the neighboring state of Kentucky.

FILE – A miner works underground in the Sewell "R" coal mine in Yukon, West Virginia, Oct. 6, 2015.
FILE – A miner works underground in the Sewell "R" coal mine in Yukon, West Virginia, Oct. 6, 2015.

She has received a cool reception in West Virginia, a leading coal-mining state that has fallen on hard times in recent years with government restrictions on coal burning and the growth of natural gas consumption in American industry.

While campaigning Monday, she was confronted by a local who challenged her on recent comments in which she warned that a Hillary Clinton administration would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

Clinton apologized for those comments Monday, telling the unemployed coal worker that what she said "was totally out of context for what I meant [to say]. What I want you to know is I'm going to do everything I can to help" those impacted by reduced coal demand.