March 20, 2018

Trump to declare opioid crisis a 'national emergency'

11 August 2017, 02:08 | Winifred Adams

Trump to be briefed on opioid abuse

In Bedminster, rolling with the rhythms of Trump's summer White House

President Trump on Thursday declared the country's opioid crisis a national emergency, saying the scourge exceeded anything he had seen with other drugs in his lifetime.

"The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I'm saying officially right now it is an emergency", Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

While President Donald Trump's briefing on the current opioid epidemic in the US on Tuesday was dominated by his aggressive threat to respond to North Korea's nuclear development program with "fire and fury", the president's comments on the opioid crisis were also met with concern by drug policy experts-as Trump indicated that he would not follow the recommendations of his own opioid crisis task force.

The "national emergency" status also brings up some political questions.

In 2015, Manatee County had the highest number of deaths per capita among Florida's 67 counties in which the medical examiner found a presence of heroin, fentanyl, morphine or cocaine, according to the Medical Examiners Commission annual report.

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Declaring a national emergency would at least allow the immediate allocation of more federal resources to address the crisis and put more pressure on Congress to take legislative action.

"It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had", the president said. The Opioid Commission recommended eliminating the exclusion as part of the national emergency.

"It's a national emergency", Trump told reporters on Thursday. It added that 27 million people reported in 2015 they now used illegal drugs or abuse prescription drugs, but only 21 million receive any type of treatment. "I hope that the Administration works quickly and prudently to finally take the steps necessary to call this opioid epidemic what it is - a national emergency - and follow-up with meaningful action and investment". On one hand, you have the current stock of opioid users who are addicted; the people in this population need treatment or they will simply find other, potentially deadlier opioids to use if they lose access to painkillers. "Better physician training and more facilitative policies for medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder could reduce mortality with substantial cost savings". Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Washington "must continue to fully fund important programs on prevention, treatment, and recovery".

The Public Health Services Act, which authorized the President to declare national public health emergencies, also authorized a Public Health Emergency Fund that could only be used to support federal efforts to address a public health emergency. Without addressing these two areas of concern, an effective response to this 21st Century public health emergency will be inadequate. Before that, the last emergency declaration, unrelated to a natural disaster, was during the 2009-10 flu season, when there was widespread concern over a potential pandemic. It was that type of global initiative that helped curb the spread of bird flu. "In this case, this is a problem that has been festering for some time - and now we're finally paying attention to it".

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