Trump rejects call to declare opioid epidemic a national emergency

Randolph Lopez
August 10, 2017

A commission created by Trump to study the matter urged him last week to declare a national emergency to address what it called a crisis involving the epidemic use of opioids, framing its death toll in the context of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The opioid commission had issued a draft report last week that called for a declaration of a national emergency and focused entirely on public health recommendations to address the crisis.

However, when asked why the president has not officially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency and whether he plans to, Price said that most national emergencies that were declared in the past "focused on a specific area, a time-limited problem - either an infectious disease or a specific threat to public health".

Christie, according to CNN, said last week on behalf of the commission: "We say to the president, you must declare an emergency".

Trump has made it clear over the first six months of his presidency that the victims of this epidemic aren't almost as important to him as fighting the bad hombres he says are bringing drugs to the U.S. And less than two weeks into his presidency, Trump told Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull that New Hampshire was a "drug-infested den". The official also labeled the opioid crisis "an issue that he brought to the forefront of the campaign".

One of the commission's key recommendations included declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency.

Despite the commission's opinion, the Trump administration announced it would not declare an emergency as of now.

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Reading a statement to reporters from a working vacation at his Bedminster National Golf Club, Trump called overdose deaths "a tremendous problem in our country".

"The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place", said Trump.

Trump, speaking to reporters before Price's remarks, did offer one potential solution. He continued, "If they don't start, they wont have a problem".

"First, [an emergency declaration] lets states and localities that are designated disaster zones to access money in the federal Disaster Relief Fund, just like they could if they had a tornado or hurricane", said Humphreys.

"As president of the United States, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people and to ensure their safety", Trump said. Although the declaration could provide additional federal resources, it could also be used to ramp up a punitive response, they said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 people across the United States died of opioid overdoses in 2015.

Price said the administration, among other efforts, may seek to relax some medical privacy laws to allow for more family members to be notified of overdoses. There's a reason for that - the commission's top recommendation for combating opioid abuse was to expand Medicaid, but Trump has very publicly supported health care legislation that would dramatically slash funding for the program. Overdoses attributed to these drugs claim an average of 142 lives a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. David Morgan, Southwest public information officer for the state Health Department, said that number has improved, but New Mexico still ranks eighth in the nation.

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