Trump de­clares opi­oid emer­gency

Pres­i­dent ral­lies na­tion to fight ‘this hor­ri­ble plague’

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

USA TO­DAY WASH­ING­TON Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ordered his health sec­re­tary to de­clare the opi­oid cri­sis a pub­lic health emer­gency Thurs­day — but stopped short of declar­ing a more sweep­ing state of na­tional emer­gency.

In an ad­dress from the White House, Trump tried to rally the na­tion to pay at­ten­tion to a grow­ing epi­demic that claimed 64,000 Amer­i­can lives last year, and ad­vo­cated for a sus­tained na­tional ef­fort to end to the ad­dic­tion cri­sis.

“No part of our so­ci­ety — not young or old, rich or poor, ur­ban or ru­ral — has been spared this hor­ri­ble plague,” Trump said.

Trump signed a pres­i­den­tial me­moran­dum or­der­ing act­ing Sec­re­tary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Eric Har­gan to waive reg­u­la­tions and give states more flex­i­bil­ity in how they use fed­eral funds, said four se­nior of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for craft­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new opi­oid pol­icy.

Trump first promised to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency to com­bat the cri­sis on Aug. 10, and re­peated that pledge last week. Speak­ing to re­porters Wed­nes­day, Trump touted a “big meet­ing” on opi­oids, and said a na­tional emer­gency “gives us power to do things that you can’t do right now.”

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 Stafford Act or the Na­tional Emer­gen­cies Act.

The lat­ter is what the pres­i­dent’s own opi­oid com­mis­sion rec­om­mended in July. Declar­ing a state of na­tional emer­gency would give the pres­i­dent even more power to waive pri­vacy laws and Med­i­caid reg­u­la­tions.

The le­gal pow­ers Trump is in­vok­ing were de­signed for a short-term emer­gen­cies like dis­as­ters and in­fec­tious dis­eases.

By law, a pub­lic health emer­gency can only last for 90 days, but can be re­newed any num­ber of times. There are 13 lo­cal­ized pub­lic health emer­gen­cies al­ready in ef­fect for Hur­ri­canes Har­vey, Irma, Maria and Nate, and the Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires.

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