President Trump to Declare Opioid Epidemic a Public Health Emergency

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President Donald Trump will use an event at the White House on Thursday to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, White House officials tell CNN.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, after months of promising to take sweeping action to combat opioids, will use an event at the White House on Thursday to declare the crisis a public health emergency, White House officials tell CNN.

The move is different from the broad order Trump previewed over the last few months. The President, according to these officials, will direct acting Health Secretary Eric Hargan to declare a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act — which directs federal agencies to provide more grant money to combat the epidemic — not a national emergency through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

The difference between the two orders is money and scope. If Trump had used the Stafford Act, the federal government would have been able to tap into funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to combat opioids. A senior administration official, however, argued that the designation was not the right fit because the FEMA money is meant for natural disasters, not health emergencies.

Under the Public Health Services Act designation, no additional federal funding will automatically be directed to the crisis, said an official, but federal agencies will be directed to devote more grant money already in their budget to the problem and take “action to overcome bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process,” according to a fact sheet on Trump’s order.

The Trump administration, the official added, will work with Congress to fund the Public Health Emergency fund and to increase federal funding in year-end budget deals currently being negotiated in Congress.

The officials pushed back against the idea that Trump’s order is less sweeping than what he promised.

“Under the Stafford Act, as unfortunately we have seen on multiple occasions over the last several months, the Stafford Act is deigned to respond to mostly natural disasters that are (of a) very short time duration and a specific geographic region,” one official said, adding that the Trump administration believed the order under the Public Health Services Act is “a better use.”

Trump’s order will last 90 days and, according to another official, can be renewed every 90 days until the President believes it is no longer needed.

Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those. Recently released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that around 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016.

Trump, after campaigning for president in part on fighting the scourge of opioid addiction, has long teased sweeping action.

The President told reporters in August that he would designate the epidemic a “national emergency” but failed to follow through. The lack of action, treatment advocates said, has deprived the fight against the deadly drugs a designation that would offer states and federal agencies more resources and power.

During an impromptu press conference in the White House Rose Garden last week, Trump said that he would officially declare the national emergency when asked why he had not followed through with his initial pledge.

“We are going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem and I want to get that absolutely right,” Trump said, billing the official declaration as a large step that took time.

And speaking with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, Trump said he would have a “very big meeting on opioids” on Thursday and will be declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency “in the very near future.”

Trump, shortly after taking office, convened a White House commission to study the problem and provide recommendations. Earlier this year, despite then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price saying it wasn’t needed, the commission recommended Trump declare a national emergency.

The President’s decision to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency follows the recommendation he received in August from his commission on the issue.

“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it,” the commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, said in an interim report. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”

The businessman-turned-politician made combating the opioid epidemic a top priority during the 2016 campaign.

The issue was elevated to such importance that during the closing moments of Trump’s 2016 campaign — when time is at its most precious — the Republican nominee headlined an opioid roundtable where he met face-to-face with those directly impacted by the issue.

“I just want to let the people of New Hampshire know that I’m with you 1,000%, you really taught me a lot,” he said before promising to help people who “are so seriously addicted.”

His actions as President, though, have left even members of his own commission with concerns.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of the President’s commission on opioid addiction, told CNN on Wednesday that he worries the President and his administration are using the opioid epidemic for photo ops.

“We don’t want any more photo-ops,” the former Democratic congressman from Rhode Island said. “I’m just speaking as an advocate, in this fight every single day as someone who is in recovery and someone who is an advocate. We don’t want any more visits to rehab centers and photo-ops, saying how courageous we are. Enough already. We want to save lives.”


  • Capt. Bogart

    Heck … we already knew it was an epidemic. Heroin is sold right in the parking lots in Susquehanna County in broad daylight.

  • 80 years old and don't much care

    They should add alcohol to the list also. I think a DUI should be 3 years electric monitoring.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Wnep YOU SUCK!! Comment section here but nothing for the Indian Muslim whatever crybaby boohoo-ing over the cereal box cartoon!!

    You suck.

    I want to get twitter just to tell they cry baby loser to F OFF!!

    What a bunch of fn baby’s this country has become.

    Pathetic. All of you.

    • warningfakenews

      It is kinda funny that Kelloggs hands so much money over to left wing causes through their foundation and yet… just like Hollywood… ya know?

      Oh, and the opiates? Yeah, it’s a shame. What’s also a problem is that people who need them for pain management will have a much more difficult time obtaining them because of this.

      • bill

        theres much better ways to provide pain relief than opiates. they are poison to the entire world and the only ones that truly benefit from them are the big pharma companies.

    • don

      “BOOOOOO! WNEP isn’t giving me a chance to flex and express my blatant racism enough these days! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” – Lloyd schmucatelli

    • Robert

      I thought Uncle Willy’s corn on stick pretty offensive. Not as much as the white colored liquid being shot on the POP’s rear however. The dark skinned pop with a job is simply inaccurate. Yea, they need to redo that entire scene.

  • Silly wabbit

    Celebrities and some top politicians are the biggest users of opioids! So now after the last 8 years being lax and pumping the citizens full of opioids until there’s a epidemic now the current administration has to clean it all up? Sounds just like Obamacare! DRAIN THE SWAMP

    • Robert

      Not sure I agree. Those folks that you mention have the money and time to rehab. The average people just overdose and die. The average person that OD’s is just a bum worthy of jail time and no sympathy (see Dylan’s response below), the celebs and politicians are promoted as hero’s or courageous.

  • MisterPL

    Of course Big Pharma wants this “epidemic” legitimized by the government. They’re not only a huge part of the cause but they’re also selling the cure.

    Follow the money.

      • randy

        if you’re referring to marijuana please do some research, there have been studies lately that marijuana has had a profound impact in helping opiate addicts recover. the addiction rate of marijuana is exponentially smaller than the other options and pain relief properties are nearly as effective, not to mention that the negative effects of marijuana addiction and use are significantly less harmful than opiates and the like ever could be. if nothing else look at the giant amount of money that is brought in for states from the revenue of marijuana, it would significantly improve our roads etc.

  • Dylan

    No sympathy for addicts-NONE. We all make choices in life, we are free to make those choices, but, we are NOT free from the consequences of those choices. EVERYONE KNOWS HEROIN is bad, drugs are bad, NO ONE thinks oooh I should do heroin because it’s good for me!! If you think that way then you are a moron.
    If you make the choice to do Heroin, or any other drug, fully aware that it will not end well, and your teeth rot or overdose then that is simply the consequence of your crappy choice. Smarten up and take some personal responsibility!!!

    • randy

      i broke my neck in earlier this year and was prescribed opiates for 8 straight months to combat pain i had. would you like to enlighten me on where my choice was to go out and abuse the opiates? do some research instead of being naive and ignorant. it almost always starts with doctors. these are the kind of drugs that if ANYONE takes them for a month or two they are going to be physically dependent upon them and will certainly get sick as a dog with withdrawals when they are stopped. this is how heroin addiction starts. but you go ahead and keep thinking that all addicts just wake up one day and make a “choice” to throw their entire life away. your lack of empathy for the entire situation is bewildering and a giant road-block in the name of progress.

      • randy

        not to mention you completely underestimate the grip and impact that even short-term use can have on the human mind. yes, everyone knows how terrible they are and yes everyone knows that they ultimately lead to terrible things yet they still continue use. doesn’t that make you question the potency and effects of the drugs in the first place? obviously not i’m sure this is falling on deaf ears. until the world wakes up and looks at the root cause of the problem nothing will improve.

  • Lance

    Politicians and celebrities can make emotional speeches and denounce the opiod problem. But throwing money and resources will not change a thing. People will continue to abuse drugs. They alone are responsible for the state they are in. The doctor prescribes a certain amount to these people. They choose to take it even though the pain that it was originally intended for was gone long ago. Yes treatment for addicts. But making speeches won’t stop the abuse. Only those who are addicts can do that. They have to accept responsibility for their actions and get help.

    • randy

      well if the world was more accepting to the issue vs vilification then getting help would be much easier. look up what happened in portugal and get educated. they actually cared for their addicts and offered help vs jail and the like (which just leads to a repetitive cycle of abuse)

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