Trump re­verses course, de­clares opi­oid cri­sis na­tional emer­gency.

Un­clear how fight will change now

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Pres­i­dent Trump di­rected his ad­min­is­tra­tion Thurs­day to treat the opi­oid epi­demic as a na­tional emer­gency, fol­low­ing through on his own com­mis­sion’s ad­vice just days af­ter his health sec­re­tary sug­gested the pres­i­dent didn’t need ad­di­tional pow­ers to fight the scourge of heroin and pre­scrip­tion painkiller abuse.

In a one-sen­tence re­lease, the White House said Mr. Trump “has in­structed his Ad­min­is­tra­tion to use all ap­pro­pri­ate emer­gency and other au­thor­i­ties to re­spond to the cri­sis caused by the opi­oid epi­demic.”

Declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency was the “first and most ur­gent” rec­om­men­da­tion in the in­terim re­port is­sued last month by Mr. Trump’s com­mis­sion on opi­oid ad­dic­tion, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price this week said Mr. Trump had the tools he needed to fight the prob­lem with­out a dec­la­ra­tion, though the pres­i­dent sig­naled a turn­about ear­lier Thurs­day.

“We’re go­ing to draw it up and we’re go­ing to make it a na­tional emer­gency,” Mr. Trump told re­porters at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey. “It is a se­ri­ous prob­lem the likes of which we have never had.”

It’s un­clear how, ex­actly, the fight against ram­pant ad­dic­tion to pre­scrip­tion painkillers and heroin would change un­der an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion.

The shift could be largely sym­bolic, fo­cus­ing new at­ten­tion on the prob­lem, though it also might free the White House to di­rect ad­di­tional fund­ing to hard-hit ar­eas or waive cer­tain rules around fed­eral pro­grams to at­tack the prob­lem more swiftly.

Sen. Rob Port­man, Ohio Repub­li­can, praised Mr. Trump’s in­tent to de­clare the prob­lem an emer­gency, as the sen­a­tor cham­pi­ons leg­is­la­tion to block dan­ger­ous opi­oid syn­thet­ics like fen­tanyl from en­ter­ing the U.S. through mail pack­ages, par­tic­u­larly from China.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Demo­crat from hard-hit New Hamp­shire, said she looks for­ward to hear­ing more de­tails about the plan and urged Mr. Trump to give up plans to pare back Med­i­caid in­sur­ance for the poor, which is con­sid­ered by many to be a crit­i­cal lifeline to treat­ment.

The pro­gram faced sweep­ing cuts in the White House’s fis­cal 2018 bud­get and its push to re­peal Oba­macare.

Fed­eral, state and lo­cal pol­i­cy­mak­ers have been scram­bling to catch up with the opi­oid epi­demic, which af­fects all ages and races in ev­ery cor­ner of the U.S. They have in­creased ac­cess to treat­ment and over­dose-re­vers­ing drugs like nalox­one, while en­cour­ag­ing doc­tors to find other ways to treat pain, since many opi­oid ad­dicts start out on pre­scrip­tion drugs be­fore turn­ing to il­licit sources.

But even as doc­tors pre­scribe fewer pain pills, the num­ber of heroin-re­lated deaths is ris­ing, par­tic­u­larly as fen­tanyl seeps into the heroin sup­ply and claims the lives of peo­ple who are al­ready hooked.

Opi­oid-re­lated over­doses claimed more than 30,000 lives in 2015, and the rate of fa­tal over­doses in­creased in the first nine months of 2016, sug­gest­ing the prob­lem is get­ting worse.

Mr. Trump didn’t out­line any spe­cific plans in his com­ments to re­porters Thurs­day, though he sug­gested that opi­oid use is a “world­wide prob­lem, not just a United States prob­lem.”

He also said the coun­try has grap­pled with drug prob­lems be­fore, such as a wave of LSD and other drugs when he was grow­ing up.

“There’s never been any­thing like what’s hap­pened to this coun­try over the last four or five years,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“We’re go­ing to draw it up and we’re go­ing to make (the opi­oid cri­sis) a na­tional emer­gency,” Pres­i­dent Trump told re­porters at his golf club in Bed­min­ster, New Jersey.

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