President Trump has declared the opioid crisis- which killed 64,000 Americans last year- a public health emergency. The order will last 90 days and can be renewed every 90 days until the President believes it is no longer needed. President Donald Trump said “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far. More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined.”
The administration will work with Congress to fund the Public Health Emergency fund and to increase federal funding in year-end budget deals currently being negotiated in Congress. Trump has directed agency and department heads to use all appropriate emergency authorities to reduce the number of deaths caused by the opioid crisis. The administration will also launch an ad campaign so that young people can see the devastation that drugs cause on people and their lives.
The administration’s opioid plan will allow expanded access to telemedicine services, giving doctors the ability to prescribe medications to treat addiction to those in remote locations. It also speeds the hiring process for medical professionals working on opioids and allows funds in programs for dislocated workers and people with HIV/AIDS to be used to treat their addictions. The designation gives the administration access to the Public Health Emergency Fund, but that fund is nearly empty.
In August, Trump said that he would declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency but later said the White House had determined that declaring a public health emergency was more appropriate than a national emergency. Many have criticized the decision to declare a public health emergency rather than a national emergency as not enough. A commission created by the administration and headed by Gov. Chris Christie called on the president to declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act. Doing so, the commission said, could free up funds for treatment, ensure wider access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone and improve monitoring of opioid prescriptions to prevent abuse.
Congress is currently spending $500 million a year on addiction treatment programs, but that money runs out next year. The administration says it will work with Congress in the budgeting process to find new money to fund addiction treatment programs. A group of senators introduced a bill that would provide more than $45 billion for opioid abuse prevention, surveillance and treatment.
From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those. Recently released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 80 percent of the world’s opioids are consumed in the US. A report published earlier this year found that 94 percent of heroin entering the United States came from Mexico. A large portion of the country’s fentanyl – a prescribed painkiller thought by many to be driving the opioid epidemic – derives from China and arrives in the States through US mail.