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Trump Says Opioid Crisis Is Emergency

  • President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the opioid crisis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. From left are, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and National Drug Control Policy acting Director Richard Baum. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)



The Washington Post
Thursday, August 10, 2017

Washington — President Donald Trump on Thursday declared the country’s opioid crisis a national emergency, saying the epidemic exceeded anything he had seen with other drugs in his lifetime.

The statement by the president came in response to a question as he spoke to reporters outside a national security briefing at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is on a working vacation.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” he said.

Last week, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, issued a preliminary report that described the overdose death toll as “September 11th every three weeks” and urged the president to declare a national emergency.

On Tuesday, Trump received an extended briefing on the subject in Bedminster. White House aides said Trump was still reviewing the report and was not yet ready to announce which of its recommendations he would embrace.

A White House statement issued Thursday evening said that Trump “has instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

The scale of the crisis, which has been building for well over a decade, is such that a presidential declaration may not have much immediate impact. It should allow the administration to remove some bureaucratic barriers and waive some federal rules governing how states and localities respond to the drug epidemic. One such rule restricts where Medicaid recipients can receive addiction treatment.

“There’s no doubt that this shines a brighter light on the epidemic. It remains to be seen how much this will fundamentally change its course,” said Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “No one thinks the recovery from this is going to be fast, emergency or not.”

The emergency declaration may allow the government to deploy the equivalent of its medical cavalry, the U.S. Public Health Service, a uniformed service of physicians and other staffers that can target places with little medical care or drug treatment, said Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He said the DEA might be able to use the emergency to require prescriber education for doctors and others who dispense opioids.

“There’s a lot that could be done. It could be very helpful, much more than just symbolic,” he said.

Governors in Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Virginia have already declared emergencies. At the street level, police, firefighters and paramedics now routinely carry naloxone (brand name Narcan), the anti-overdose drug that can yank an addict back from the brink of death.