Health Care

Trump readies opioid plan, but some worry it won't be enough

Trump readies opioid plan, but some worry it won't be enough”

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to declare a nationwide public health emergency Thursday to address an escalating opioid crisis that killed more than 175 people each day a year ago. 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.

But there's a legal distinction between a public health emergency, which the secretary of Health can declare under the Public Health Services Act, and a presidential emergency under the National Emergencies Act.

Trump's decision to go with a more measured response, a public health emergency, demonstrates the complexity of an opioid crisis that continues to grow through an ever-evolving cycle of addiction, from prescription pain pills to illegal heroin to the lethal fentanyl.

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".

"Beyond the shocking death tolls, the shocking measure of the opioid crisis involves the families ripped apart and for many communities, a generation of loss potential and opportunity", Trump said.

President Donald Trump will direct his Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act.

"The opioid is a tremendous emergency", Trump told Fox Business Network. The officials previewed the action to USA TODAY on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak ahead of the president's announcement.

The latter is what the president's own opioid commission recommended in July.

Officials said the administration had considered a bolder emergency declaration, under the Stafford Act, which is typically used for natural disasters like hurricanes.

The action has been long-anticipated as use of opioids has rapidly escalated to a full-blown epidemic.

The opioid-related public health emergency will last 90 days but can be repeatedly renewed. It speeds the hiring process for medical professionals working on opioids.

Thursday's declaration also allows the Department of Labor to issue grants to help dislocated workers affected by the crisis.

The move allows for some limited steps, such as allowing patients in rural parts of the country to access medication for addiction treatment through telemedicine, but will not make any additional federal money available to confront a crisis that previous year killed more than 64,000 Americans.

Lujan also took a shot at Trump's broader public health prioirities.

The final report of the White House's commission on opioids is due next week. Three out of four of those overdose deaths were linked to opioids.

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. It now contains just $57,000 (€48,000), according to the Department of Health and Human Services, a negligible amount.

Trump earlier this year assembled a commission, led by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, to study the problem.

"This epidemic is a national health emergency", he said.

Trump's statements, she said, are "words without the money". "And it gives Congress a place to go with that money to give the administration some flexibility to use it to be able to use it to deal with some of the most pressing parts of it".

Kessler noted that the declaration doesn't call for any funding to be made available to implement emergency protocols and that the longer fight will be keeping the public aware of the issue, training medical professionals and keeping Medicaid funded.

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