President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on Thursday, telling an audience gathered at the White House that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
“Nobody has seen anything like this going on now. As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue,” he said to the audience of local leaders, first responders, healthcare professionals and families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction.
The president called the current epidemic “the worst drug crisis in American history,” citing the harrowing affect drugs such as prescription painkillers and heroin have had on the American public.
“Last year we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses,” Trump said. “That’s 175 lost American lives per day. That’s seven lost lives per hour in our country.
“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far. More people are dying from drug overdoses today than from gun homicides and motor vehicles combined,” he added.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. … We can do it,” Trump said. “That is why effective today my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law.”
While Trump’s declaration under the Public Health Services Act won’t allocate additional funding to combat the opioid epidemic, it will allow acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan to loosen restrictive regulations, such as a 1970s-era rule that prevents states from providing care at drug addiction treatment facilities with more than 16 beds.
It will also allow for the federal government to shift funding from HIV/AIDS programs to initiatives that provide treatment for substance abuse.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 26, 2017
Trump linked the drug epidemic to his signature campaign issue — a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“An astonishing 90 percent of the heroin in America comes from south of the border — where we will be building a wall — which will greatly help in this problem,” Trump said.
He also pledged to address the issue as a top priority in his upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in two weeks.
“And he will do something about it,” Trump promised. “I am also pleased to report that for the first time the department of justice has (indicted) major Chinese drug traffickers, and they have really put very, very strong clamps on them.”
Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency will last 90 days and must be renewed until the declaration is no longer necessary.
The president’s declaration recieved mixed reactions.
Democrats said Trump’s declaration was all well and good, but questioned why a federal funding ask wasn’t included in his announcement.
“It is deeply concerning that this declaration, which comes a full three months after the President’s Commission on the Opioid Crisis’ report, fails to authorize federal funding to help those Americans locked in a life-or-death struggle with opioid addiction,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Democrat Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan questioned whether Trump’s declaration “represents a real plan of action or just words on a piece of paper.”
Republicans applauded the president for calling attention to the crisis.
I applaud Pres Trump's attn on our nation's opioid crisis I will continue my wrk in Senate/Judic/drug caucus 2 help fight this epidemic
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 26, 2017
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Trump took a “bold” step Thursday that shows “an unprecedented commitment to fighting this epidemic and placing the weight of the presidency behind saving lives across the country.”
Image and Content: Western Journalism