Trump Reneges on Declaring Opioid Crisis National Emergency

Brandon Parsons
October 30, 2017

US President Donald Trump will declare the nation's opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday in a bid to redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat widespread abuse, senior administration officials said. In turn, it would have opened new funding streams for combating the problem.

"Nobody has ever seen anything like what is happening now", Trump said from the White House. It's time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. A national emergency similar to what gets declared during a natural disaster would have uncorked funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though that request would have had to compete with money for relief in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. To do that, the administration will need to have an "ongoing discussion" with Congress about funding, one official said. Despite his previous claims that the opioid crisis is a 'national emergency, ' the President's announcement does not unleash the financial resources necessary to end this epidemic. The last time that a national public health emergency of this scope was called was in 2009 in response to the H1N1 influenza virus.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, welcomed the declaration saying, "We believe the FDA has a vital role to play in curbing new addiction, reframing how we look at the benefits and risks of opioids as part of our pre- and post-market efforts".

"Far too many families across Arizona and the country know the pain of losing a loved one to opioid abuse", Ducey said in the statement.

"President Trump's emergency order is a good first step; however, more will be needed", Morrisey said.

The Trump announcement includes more emphasis on telemedicine in isolated areas like Appalachia, including allowing prescriptions for addiction-fighting drugs without seeing a doctor in-person.

Under Thursday's declaration, treatment would be made more accessible for abusers of prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, while ensuring fewer delays in staffing the Department of Health and Human Services to help states grapple with the crisis.

This public health crisis designation, once approved, would allow a number of federal agencies to target this particular crisis.

Thursday's declaration also allows the Department of Labor to issue grants to help dislocated workers affected by the crisis. The Intercept reports that fund holds only $57,000.

To combat the epidemic, the president said the government would produce "really tough, really big, really great advertising" aimed at persuading Americans not to start using opioids in the first place, seeming to hark back to the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign led by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.

"When you go through the proposals there are a lot of things it won't do", Cidambi said. "It took us 20 years to get into this mess".

"There hasn't really been an investment in that work-pathway for people recovering from substance abuse disorders", Craig says. The city is now paying $70 to $90 for a two-dose pack of naloxone, she said. He shared the story of his brother Fred, who he said had struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his life and implored Trump never to take a drink - advice the president said he had heeded. Even the White House has said that they would push Congress to replenish the Public Health Emergency Fund to enable more grants to fight opioid abuse. Schools and health centers need to expand prevention education to all students.

If Gottlieb's push toward a medication-based approach to recovery is married with an expansion of telemedicine that expands access to buprenorphine, a dent could be made in the epidemic. These are actions we can take right now.

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