Trump declares opioids public health emergency in US

Casey Dawson
October 29, 2017

Scrutinizing packages entering the country that could contain addictive drugs like fentanyl, which is often mailed to the United States from China. That would normally be administered through FEMA, not the Health and Human Services Department.

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 past year killed more than 64,000 Americans.

Trump acknowledged the effort to combat the opioid crisis will likely take years or decades but said, "We are going to overcome addiction in America".

Congressional Republicans as well as law enforcement and physicians' groups said the president's announcement was a crucial first step in building awareness about the opioid crisis and confronting its causes and devastating effects. The Granite State has the second-highest rate of opioid-related deaths per capita and the highest rate of fentanyl-related deaths nationwide. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was at the White House for the presidential announcement.

The president also said the government should focus on teaching young people not to take drugs.

"This epidemic is a national health emergency", Trump said at the White House.

Last spring, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published a 10-part series exploring the state's opioid epidemic, which has reached communities large and small and families poor and affluent.

President Trump says, "These overdoses are driven by a massive increase in addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin and other opioids".

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The opioid commission's chairman, New Jersey Gov Chris Christie, applauded Trump's actions, saying on Twitter that Trump is "doing what we asked of him". "Believe me. Very, very tough life", Trump said. Overdose deaths in ME have climbed at a rate that has been among the highest of any state over the past four years. Those people did not have a choice to, as Trump said, "not to take drugs, just not to take them". "It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction".

"Many of the people we've seen, or had to turn away, are having trouble getting a doctor to prescribe Suboxone, or don't have a way to pay for it", she said.

His directive does not on its own release any additional funds to deal with a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and the president did not request any, although his aides said he would soon do so.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, called Trump's declaration "an important step" that's "long overdue" and will mean nothing if it isn't followed with immediate actions.

"We will be bringing some very major lawsuits against people and against companies that are hurting our people", Trump said.

"The declaration. will really reorient all of the federal government and the executive branch's resources towards focusing on providing relief for this urgent need", one official told reporters on a conference call ahead of a speech by Trump on the issue at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

Administration officials argued that a national emergency declaration was not necessary or helpful in the case of the opioid crisis, and that the powers associated with a public health emergency were better suited to address the issue.

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