President Trump to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency
US President Donald Trump’s declaration that the opioid epidemic is a national emergency to arrive this week.
The President is expected to make the formal declaration and deliver a major speech on the topic Thursday, just 2 months after he 1st announced his plan.
Some health advocates worry that devoting more public health resources to opioids could pull attention and resources from other health problems such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
The idea of declaring a national emergency was raised in an interim report prepared by an opioid commission chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and convened by the President in the Summer.
“The first and most urgent recommendation of this commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency,” read the report from the group, which argued the move would empower Trump’s Cabinet to address the crisis and force Congress to dedicate more money to fighting overdose deaths.
President Trump in August he planned to adopt the recommendation, and claimed his team was working on documents to formalize the declaration.
Emergency declarations are typically reserved for natural disaster like hurricanes, infectious diseases like swine flu and bioterrorist threats like anthrax.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy defends the administration’s handling of the matter, saying President Trump’s policy advisers, along with relevant government agencies, have been “working tirelessly since the beginning” to respond to the opioid crisis.
With an estimated 142 Americans dying every day from drug overdoses, more than 10,000 people have died in the weeks since the president first committed to the plan.
At a commission meeting last week, “We ought to be treating this like a FEMA response and getting the necessary medication,” said former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who argued that, if the drug crisis were Ebola, “we’d waive all the rules and we’d say get it done and start saving lives, I mean that’s what we need.”
“That’s what we’ve been saying,” Christie responded. The New Jersey Governor later compared the response to the AIDs epidemic.
“I still have not seen the passion for this epidemic that I saw in the AIDS epidemic,” Gov. Christie said.
The commission had suggested two mechanisms for an emergency declaration: the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.
If the emergency is declared instead under the Stafford Act, funding could be included with disaster relief for hurricanes and wildfires. Putting the opioids emergency under the jurisdiction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).