Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Trump to declare opioids a public health emergency

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images
Tracy Craig | 29 October, 2017, 02:44

Donald Trump has declared America's use of opioids a national public health emergency, calling it "the worst drug crisis in American history".

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. The distinction matters, because had the president followed through on his August remarks, Federal Emergency Management Agency funds could have been used immediately in responding to the crisis, including improving first-responder care for opioid overdoses. But the move stops short of declaring a national emergency, which would have freed up additional federal funds to combat the epidemic.

Officials said a national state of emergency would not have been the best approach for a long-term crisis and would not have provided authorities with resources the government does not already have.

"This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs", Mr. Trump said, "it's really, really easy not to take them". "This epidemic is a national health emergency".

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.

The opioid commission's chairman, New Jersey Gov Chris Christie, applauded Trump's actions, saying on Twitter that Trump is "doing what we asked of him".

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U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, were present at the White House for the announcement Thursday.

The money is needed to expand treatment for people with substance abuse disorders and to provide more of the antidote naloxone to first responders and the public, Wen said. Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the formal declaration was delayed because of the "in-depth legal process" required to do so. Those people did not have a choice to, as Trump said, "not to take drugs, just not to take them".

A Trump-named commission headed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is expected to release a report on an overall strategy for combating the opioid crisis on November 1. Among its many provisions, Trump's order gives governors more flexibility in how they use federal grants to address the crisis. It's not clear what sort of education campaign Trump is envisioning, but the Obama administration in 2015 also announced a training program in opioid prescribing for prescribers who worked for the federal government. "They are all commonly treated with a range of controlled substances which, until now, have not been able to be prescribed by telemedicine", ATA President Peter Yellowlees, MD, said.

"Today's declaration prioritizes the urgency of this epidemic for the federal government and will ultimately help ME and our local communities more effectively fight this crisis", he said.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing almost 3,000 local health departments, also expressed disappointment that Trump did not go further and call the crisis a national emergency.

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