'We have no alternative' to defeating opioid crisis

Marie Harrington
August 10, 2017

"If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off", Trump told reporters at the clubhouse at his private golf club in New Jersey.

But the substance of the meeting was quickly overshadowed when Trump, responding to a reporter's question about North Korea's provocations, threatened to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" if it continues to threaten the United States.

He also sought to cast blame on the previous administration for the worsening of the opioid problem.

The Trump administration is declining to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, despite a recommendation from the president's opioid commission calling that its "first and most urgent recommendation".

He also vowed to work with doctors and health professionals to help address the causes of opioid addictions. "We must act boldly to stop it", read its report.

"It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will", the report said.

"For example, now Medicaid can't reimburse drug treatment in large residential facilities (16 or more beds)".

The commission recommended that the treatment facilities should be expanded across the United States, doctors should be educated and equipped about the proper way to prescribe pain medication and police officers ought to be equipped with the anti-overdose remedy Naloxone. And in 2009, he declared the H1N1 swine-flu virus a national emergency.

Trump declined the reports' recommendation about a national emergency.

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Following the briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he believes there are resources to address the crisis without declaring a national emergency.

"The average sentence for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 20 percent from 2009 to 2016", he added, noting he "promised to fight this battle during his campaign". "We still have too many people getting medicine at too high a level and for too long", said CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat in an interview with the Times last month.

A group of GOP centrists who torpedoed the bill stressed potential cuts to addiction treatment programs. "When you have the capacity of Yankee stadium or Dodger stadium dying every single year in this nation, that's a crisis that has to be given incredible attention and the president is giving it that attention".

A declaration of emergency would allow the Trump presidency to expedite legislation created to ameliorate the addiction crisis, while simultaneously drawing political attention to the problem.

Price said other national emergencies for public health have been focused on a "time-limited problem, either an infectious disease or a specific threat to public health".

Health officials awaiting news from President Trump's briefing on opioids Tuesday didn't, in the end, get much about what the White House plans to do about the growing crisis. He emerged from the briefing with two ideas for combating the epidemic: Telling young people that opioids are bad and strengthening the war on drugs.

Medicaid, which now insures some 70 million low-income Americans, historically covered primarily poor children, pregnant mothers and the low-income elderly. The drug was almost unheard of on the illegal market in the United States until recently.

Bierman reported from Bridgewater and Levey from Washington.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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