President Trump said yesterday that he is preparing to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. This is a reversal from an announcement made earlier this week by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who said that they would not declare a state of emergency.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump reportedly said, according to The Hill. “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.”
“It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up, they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years,” the president added. “And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”
Last week, a White House commission responsible for drawing up policy suggestions to curb the opioid crisis released an interim report, writing that declaring a national emergency was the group’s “first and most urgent” recommendation.
Although six states have already declared emergencies for the opioid epidemic, the federal government has never done so for drug abuse.
““I think that the important message when we’re talking about the federal level is there really is not a lot of precedent for a federal declaration for a non-communicable health condition,” Lainie Rutkow, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The Hill.
The interim report published by the White House opioid epidemic commission said that a national declaration of emergency will enable Price to negotiate a cheaper price for the opioid overdose-reversal drug, naloxone.
“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life. It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,” the commission wrote.