Trump declaring opioid crisis a 'public health emergency' a start

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images

Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images

President Trump's declaration that opioid abuse is a national emergency comes without a lot of new resources for states to deal with the health threat.

Under Trump's direction, the secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services will declare a 90-day national public health emergency, subject to regular renewal.

Officials told reporters on the conference call that Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that would have been released under a national emergency are already exhausted from recent storms that struck Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. However, without giving Congress the broad-based power to infuse additional funding into opioid recovery and treatment services, especially in New Jersey, one of states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, we are concerned that the pressure to maintain existing funding sources for now operating programs will pit opioid disorder treatment programs against other worthy initiatives.

He advocates an "educational full press", enlisting the medical community to find safer ways to manage pain, parents to see the signs of addiction earlier as well as stepping up enforcement of current drug laws.

"For too long, we have allowed drugs to ravage American homes, cities and towns", said Trump, who described the "very tough life" his brother led because of alcohol. Afterward, he promised several times to declare opioid abuse a "national emergency".

Trump's campaign promise to focus on the opioid crisis helped propel him to a crucial victory in New Hampshire's primary a year ago. "The expansion of telemedicine to these areas is a game-changer and will allow people struggling with substance use disorder the ability to receive opioid treatment prescriptions without seeing a doctor, which is a huge hurdle for many West Virginians", he said. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was at the White House for the presidential announcement. "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic".

"To fully respond to this American crisis, we must use every tool at our disposal", he said. On Thursday, the senator applauded the president's declaration, but said he hopes it's just the first step.

A Trump-named commission headed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is expected to release a report on an overall strategy for combating the opioid crisis on November 1. "They're bad", he said.

"Well, you know, I think there's more to come on that."

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who attended Trump's speech, said he hopes the initiative will lead to "a better coordinated federal response to this crisis".

Lori Criss, of the Ohio Council of Behavior Health & Family Service Providers, says the treatment model needs to change so addiction gets the same insurance coverage and resources as cancer and other diseases.

Administration officials argued that a national emergency declaration was not necessary or helpful in the case of the opioid crisis, and that the powers associated with a public health emergency were better suited to address the issue.

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