The White House says the declaration will help in the fight against opioid abuse, but critics say it limits the scope and funding for this battle.
President Donald Trump declared war on drugs today.However, he did it with a different kind of arsenal than originally planned.And critics say his battlefield strategy will not have enough firepower to defeat an epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.At the White House on Thursday, President Trump announced a “public health emergency” over the nation’s opioid epidemic.The declaration falls short of the “national emergency” that had been discussed by the president and others this summer.
On Thursday, the president said the public health emergency will address the “national shame” and “human tragedy” of the opioid crisis.Trump said the federal government would help develop nonaddictive painkillers and consider lawsuits against “bad actors” that fuel the opioid crisis.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,” the president said.
The declaration lasts for 90 days and can be renewed every 90 days as long as the president feels it’s needed.Among other things, the health emergency declaration allows patients to get medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction through telemedicine instead of in-person visits with doctors, according to USA Today.It also gives federal and state governments more flexibility in temporarily hiring substance abuse specialists.The pharmaceutical industry praised the president’s action, saying “the problem is too complex for a single person or policy to solve alone.”
“We commend the Trump Administration for its leadership in tackling the opioid and heroin addiction crisis,” a statement from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “We agree that this is a nationwide public health emergency and believe today’s announcement will provide the federal government with more tools and resources to end a tragic epidemic that is being deeply felt by individuals, families and communities across the country.”
However, critics said the “public health emergency” status limits the scope of what the federal government can do.They point out that under a “national emergency” status the federal government could have tapped into funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.White House officials said using the Disaster Relief Fund wasn’t appropriate because the money is meant for natural disasters, not health crises.
CNN reported that under the public health emergency no additional funding will be directed immediately to the opioid epidemic. Instead, federal agencies will be able to use more grant money already in their budget for the epidemic.
Critics said more needs to be done.
“What’s important for Americans is not declaring an emergency but acting on the emergency,” Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, said in a statement. “Declarations and tweets will do little to curb the deadly opioid push into our communities spurred by Big Pharma.”