Opiod cri­sis is na­tional emer­gency, Trump says

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Wash­ing­ton Post

Pres­i­dent of­fi­cially de­clares cri­sis, says U.S. will spend “a lot of ef­fort and a lot of money” on prob­lem.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day de­clared the coun­try’s opi­oid cri­sis a na­tional emer­gency, say­ing the epi­demic ex­ceeded any­thing he had seen with other drugs in his life­time.

The state­ment by the pres­i­dent came in re­sponse to a ques­tion as he spoke to re­porters out­side a na­tional se­cu­rity brief­ing at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, N.J.

“The opi­oid cri­sis is an emer­gency, and I’m say­ing of­fi­cially right now it is an emer­gency. 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,” he said.

Last week, the Pres­i­dent’s Com­mis­sion on Com­bat­ing Drug Ad­dic­tion and the Opi­oid Cri­sis, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is­sued a pre­lim­i­nary re­port that de­scribed the over­dose death toll as “Septem­ber 11th ev­ery three weeks” and urged the pres­i­dent to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency.

On Tues­day, Trump re­ceived an ex­tended brief­ing on the sub­ject in Bed­min­ster. White House aides said Trump was still re­view­ing the re­port and was not yet ready to an­nounce which of its rec­om­men­da­tions he would em­brace.

A White House state­ment is­sued Thurs­day evening said that Trump “has in­structed his Ad­min­is­tra­tion to use all ap­pro­pri­ate emer­gency and other au­thor­i­ties to re­spond to the cri­sis caused by the opi­oid epi­demic.”

The scale of the cri­sis, which has been build­ing for well over a decade, is such that a pres­i­den­tial dec­la­ra­tion may not have much im­me­di­ate im­pact. But it should al­low the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­move some bu­reau­cratic bar­ri­ers and waive some fed­eral rules gov­ern­ing how states and lo­cal­i­ties re­spond to the drug epi­demic.

“There’s no doubt that this shines a brighter light on the epi­demic. It re­mains to be seen how much this will fun­da­men­tally change its course,” said Caleb Alexan­der, co-di­rec­tor of the Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for Drug Safety and Ef­fec­tive­ness. “No one thinks the re­cov­ery from this is go­ing to be fast, emer­gency or not.”

The emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion may al­low the gov­ern­ment to de­ploy the equiv­a­lent of its med­i­cal cav­alry, the U.S. Pub­lic Health Ser­vice, a uni­formed ser­vice of physi­cians and other staffers that can tar­get places with lit­tle med­i­cal care or drug treat­ment, said An­drew Kolodny, co-di­rec­tor of opi­oid pol­icy re­search at the Heller School for So­cial Pol­icy and Man­age­ment at Bran­deis Univer­sity.

“There’s a lot that could be done. It could be very help­ful, much more than just sym­bolic,” he said.

Gov­er­nors in Arizona, Florida, Mary­land and Vir­ginia have al­ready de­clared emer­gen­cies. And in re­cent months the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Congress, physi­cian groups and the in­surance in­dus­try have all taken in­sti­tu­tional steps to ad­dress the cri­sis.

At the street level, po­lice, fire­fight­ers and paramedics now rou­tinely carry the anti-over­dose drug nalox­one.

Drug ad­dic­tion is a wide­spread and grow­ing prob­lem, with an es­ti­mated 2.6 mil­lion opi­oid ad­dicts in the United States.

The re­port is­sued last week states: “The opi­oid epi­demic we are fac­ing is un­par­al­leled. The av­er­age Amer­i­can would likely be shocked to know that drug over­doses now kill more peo­ple than gun homi­cides and car crashes com­bined.”

The re­port ac­tu­ally un­der­stated the lethal­ity of the epi­demic. The com­mis­sion based its es­ti­mate of the num­ber of fa­tal drug over­doses on 2015 sta­tis­tics, when 52,404 peo­ple died of over­doses of all drugs, in­clud­ing opi­oids, for an av­er­age of 142 a day. But new fed­eral data cov­er­ing the first nine months of 2016 showed that the death toll jumped sig­nif­i­cantly since 2015 and could reach 60,000 once the numbers are all in for that year.

In Thurs­day’s brief­ing, Trump said, “It is a se­ri­ous prob­lem, the likes of which we’ve 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.”

XINHUA NEWS AGENCY / SIPA USA

“We’re go­ing to spend a lot of time, a lot of ef­fort and a lot of money on the opi­oid cri­sis,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day.

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