What President Trump's Public Health Emergency Declaration Means for the Opioid Crisis

Kristen Gonzales
October 29, 2017

President Donald Trump will on Thursday officially declare a national public health emergency over the United States epidemic of opioid drug overdoses, according to senior administration officials, addressing a scourge killing tens of thousands of people nationwide.

On Wednesday, the president told Fox Business Network he would be declaring the crisis a national emergency, which would have opened up additional federal funds.

Critics believe the President should have treated it as a national emergency, which would have treated opioid abuse more in the vein of a natural disaster, enlisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "It is going to take all of us working together including parents, law enforcement, schools, churches, community groups, and government to turn this problem around, and the action items the President announced today will help on many fronts, including prevention, education, treatment and law enforcement".

"I have been hopeful for the last several years that the federal government would step up and help us with this crisis, and they havenĀ“t".

Eric Haram, former behavioral health director of the Addiction Resource Center at Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick and now a treatment consultant in ME and other states, said the president's remarks Wednesday were light on specifics.

According to President Trump, "Last year we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses".

The money can also be re-directed to fighting addiction by cutting down delays which can result in people getting help faster by expanding access to medical services.

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Towards the end of his speech, Trump acknowledged Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan, whose program "Safe Station" had assisted over 350 Granite Staters suffering from addiction begin the recovery process.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed President Trump's remarks on drug abuse Thursday, saying the best way to stop people from dying from drug abuse is by "not starting in the first place".

"There hasn't really been an investment in that work-pathway for people recovering from substance abuse disorders", Craig says. Trump also said he would expand telemedicine to address the crisis in rural areas and act to suspend a rule that prevents Medicaid from covering drug-rehab services. Those people did not have a choice to, as Trump said, "not to take drugs, just not to take them".

"Our communities need federal funding and resources to fight this epidemic", she said.

- The Department of Labor will make Dislocated Worker Grants available to those with opioid addictions and others who were dislocated by this health crisis or who have had trouble finding work due to their addiction. This speaks to something that is often lost when discussing the opioid epidemic: There are still lots of patients who need pain medication, and there are some concerns that because of new prescribing limits and the fear of feeding addiction, they are not able to get access to them.

"President Trump's announcement falls far short of the recommendations of his own commission, and is essentially meaningless because it does not provide any new funding to fight an epidemic that is killing 91 Americans every day ..."

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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