Opioid Epidemic Declared Public Health Emergency

Rather than the immediate release of federal funds, the declaration is partly intended to have a symbolic impact
Rather than the immediate release of federal funds, the declaration is partly intended to have a symbolic impact

President Trump has signed a declaration designating the opioid epidemic a nationwide public health emergency.

Unlike a national emergency, which is what Mr. Trump had recently referred to the epidemic as, a public health emergency does not involve the release of any federal funds. Rather, the declaration is partly intended to have a symbolic impact.

Some funds will come in the form of existing grant programs however any money that is going to directly be spent will have to be allocated by Congress in a separate action. “I'm directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis,” said Mr. Trump, which will involve a relaxation of rules and regulations to tackle the problem, such as:

  • Allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists.
  • The shifting of HIV/AIDS program resources to help people receive substance abuse treatment.

The grant money will go toward hiring specialists and expanding telemedicine services in more rural locales. The U.S. Postal Services and the Department of Homeland Security have been directed to intensify inspections of packages coming into the country with a focus on identifying fentanyl. 

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Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, welcomed the declaration saying, “We believe the FDA has a vital role to play in curbing new addiction, reframing how we look at the benefits and risks of opioids as part of our pre- and post-market efforts.”

Mr. Trump also announced a forthcoming “really tough, really big, really great advertising” campaign that would target young people, “So we can get to people before they start,” he said.

The decision to declare the epidemic a public health emergency was due to the nature of the crisis, New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis told The Daily podcast“Among White House officials there was a worry they were essentially signing themselves up for a completely open ended commitment of federal resources [if the opioid epidemic were to be declared a national emergency]," she said.

For more information visit Whitehouse.gov.