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Every day it's something new: details in the Russia campaign investigation, shake-ups at the White House, turmoil over Trump's response to race-fueled riots. His administration's failed plans to remake the health care system may or may not cost millions their coverage, and there's a lack of clarity over how he intends to eradicate a spiraling drug crisis that now kills Americans each day — a growing number of them here, in Grays Harbor County. Blodgett was born and raised in this county, where the logging economy collapsed decades ago, replaced by a simmering sense of injustice that outsiders took the lumber, built cities around the world and then left this place to decay when there was nothing more to take.

The community sank into despair. Suicides increased, addiction took root. Blodgett is 59, and the rate at which people here die from drugs and alcohol has quadrupled in her lifetime. She thought opening an antiques store and pawnshop with her boyfriend on a downtown street bordered by petunias would be fun. Instead, she's confronted every day with her neighbors' suffering. They come to pawn their jewelry to pay for medication. They come looking for things stolen from them.

They come to trade in odds and ends and tell her food stamps won't cover the dog food. Now they come to discuss Trump, and their differing degrees of faith that he will make good on his promise to fix the rotting blue-collar economy that brought this despair to their doorstep. Many here agree that the thrashing and churning in Washington looks trivial when viewed from this place 3, miles away that so many residents have been trying so hard to save. Some maintain confidence that Trump will rise above the chaos to deliver on his pledge to resurrect the American dream. Others fear new depths of hopelessness if he fails.

Blodgett just prays Trump understand the stakes — because in places like this, there is little room left for error from Washington, D. Across the country, Trump disproportionately claimed these communities where lifetimes contracted as the working class crumbled. Pennsylvania State University sociologist Shannon Monnat spent last fall plotting places on a map experiencing a rise in "deaths of despair" — from drugs, alcohol and suicide wrought by the decimation of jobs that used to bring dignity.

On Election Day, she glanced up at the television. The map of Trump's victory looked eerily similar to hers documenting death, from New England through the Rust Belt all the way here, to the rural coast of Washington, a county of 71, so out of the way that some say it feels like the end of the Earth. Aberdeen was built as a boomtown at the dawn of the 20th century. Its spectacular landscape — the Chehalis River carves through tree-topped hills to the harbor — offered ships easy access to the Pacific Ocean.

Millionaire lumber barons built mansions on the hills. There were restaurants and theaters and traffic that backed up as the drawbridge into town seesawed up and down for ship after ship packed with timber. Now that drawbridge pretty much stays put. The economy started to slip in the s, slowly at first, as jobs were lost to globalization and automation. Then the federal government in limited the level of logging in an attempt to save an endangered owl. Today, the riverbank hosts a homeless encampment where residents pull driftwood from the water to construct memorials to the dead.

An 8-foot cross honors their latest loss: a year-old man who had heart and lung ailments made worse by infrequent medical care and addiction. A generation ago, people like him worked in the mills, lived in tidy houses and could afford to see a doctor, said the Reverend Sarah Monroe, a street minister here. The county's population is stagnating and aging, as many young and able move away.

Just 15 percent of those left behind have college degrees. A quarter of children grow up poor. There is a critical shortage of doctors. All that gathered into what Karolyn Holden, director of the public health department, called "a perfect storm" that put Grays Harbor near the top of the lists no place wants to be on: drugs, alcohol, early death, runaway rates of welfare. Forrest Wood grew up here; his parents even picked his name in tribute to the local timber history. He watched drugs take hold of his relatives, and he swore to himself that he would get out, maybe become a park ranger.

But he started taking opioid painkillers as a teenager, and before he knew it he was shooting heroin — a familiar first chapter in the story of American addiction. He sat under a bridge next to a park named after Kurt Cobain, the city's most famous son, the Nirvana frontman and a heroin addict, who shot himself in the head at age 27 in Wood is He plunged a syringe full of brown liquid into a vein, knowing how this might end. He did too much. Wood's mother got treatment at the county's methadone clinic and has stayed clean for years, paid for by her coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Holden was so happy on the day President Barack Obama signed the legislation, she cried. It's an imperfect program with premiums and deductibles rising for some, she said. But thousands here received coverage; the uninsured dropped from 18 percent in to 9 in — one of the greatest gains in the state. She reads about all the proposals Republicans have offered to topple it — repeal and replace, just repeal, do nothing and let it buckle on its own — and believes the consequences of an unstable system will be most painful in counties like hers, where residents die on average three years younger than those in the rest of the state.

For two terrifying weeks this summer, no insurer filed to provide coverage for the county through the exchange next year, threatening to leave thousands without an option. Other initiatives seem to be on the administration's chopping block, too, like family planning programs to combat the high rate of teen pregnancy. The health department last year collected , needles at its syringe exchange designed to stem the tide of drug-related disease — an incredible number for a small community, but still down from more than , the year before. Holden attributed that improvement to the methadone clinic that helps Wood's mother and nearly more stay off drugs.

More than 95 percent of her patients are covered by Medicaid. If the nation's health care system collapses and patients are left uninsured, Carney said, her clinic and others won't survive, and even more people will end up homeless, in jail or dead. Tarryn Vick and Anjelic Baker line up before dawn every morning outside the clinic. They both beat crushing addictions by drinking their daily cup of pink liquid, and without it they believe they would tumble back into that deadly spiral. On this morning, they worried together over the possibility that Obamacare would be undone.

Baker began to cry. Robert LaCount flipped open his Alcoholics Anonymous book, the binding frayed from a decade of reading, and pulled out a funeral program he keeps tucked among its pages.

The photo on the front shows a woman with long hair and sad eyes, 32 years old, a mother of three. He walked her down the aisle at her wedding. Eight months later, he carried the casket at her funeral. She had been addicted to heroin, recovered, relapsed and hanged herself. For years, LaCount cycled in and out of jail, and it did nothing to stop the addiction.


He endangered his own children, spent Christmases in missions, didn't care whether he lived. Then one day it occurred to him that his life was so empty no one would care enough to claim his body from the morgue when he died. He got clean nine years ago and now runs a sober housing program; but daily, he fields 10 calls for help that he has to say no to because there's so much need and so few resources.

LaCount is a Trump supporter looking eagerly to Washington for action on the addiction crisis. The president this month declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, potentially unlocking federal funding for deterrence and treatment. However, other moves by the administration have LaCount concerned.

Fifty Shades of Pain

He was stunned when Trump's attorney general announced a return to the tough-on-crime sentencing policies of the War on Drugs, and he's unnerved by Trump's calls to undo the health insurance system that he and many addicts have relied on to get clean. Those trapped in addiction have little chance to get out of it without health coverage, he said. But it's hard to tell sometimes what news is real and what's blown out of proportion, he said, frustrated by what he sees as mass obstruction to the president's every proposal.

People in big cities, rooting for Trump's failure, don't have nearly as much on the line as they do here, LaCount said. He sees opportunity all around him: a port, railroads, a lot of open real estate and a beautiful wildness, where deer sometimes meander along city streets. So he's scraping paint from a run-down church with dreams of building a community center to help other people see it, too. He considers his old building a metaphor for his community — good bones, a good soul, a working organ that plays beautiful music.

It just needs help. Many others trying to pull their neighbors from despair are similarly optimistic about a future under Trump. People like Chad Mittleider, a paramedic, who applauds Trump's efforts to renegotiate trade deals and roll back welfare programs and regulations like those that helped drag down his community. He has brought former classmates back to life from overdoses and responded to their suicide attempts, treating the same people over and over. Monroe, the minister, can't afford to be patient.

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