By: Amy Jacob

President Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The U.S. must confront “the worst drug crisis in American history, and even if you really think about it, world history,” Trump said during an address at the White House.

Trump believes it’s now time to “liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.” And he’s not wrong.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, each day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. is $78.5 billion annually, including costs of lost productivity at work, addiction treatment, health care, and criminal justice involvement.

But What Does This Mean?

Trump’s announcement addressing the drug crisis that is gripping the nation drew both praise and concern from public advocates.

Through the 1944 Public Health Services Act, Trump ordered acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan, an attorney from Illinois who previously served as the Deputy General Counsel of HHS for the George W. Bush Administration, to declare a national health emergency.

This declaration alone doesn’t actually release additional money to fund the problem that has reportedly claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016.

The Act will, instead, expand access to telemedicine in rural areas with few doctors, transition some grant money to be used toward the crisis, and ease certain laws to address the issue.

Back on Aug. 10, Trump had called the grim opioid crisis a “national emergency,” but did not sign any official declaration, instead saying the White House staff was drafting paperwork to issue the official declaration.

Had he declared it a national emergency through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, the federal government could have had access to $4.28 billion to help fight the opioid epidemic from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Fund.

However, what was signed was a Public Health Services Act, which gives the government access to a fund that’s currently left with $57,000, a huge difference.

Now, using the Stafford Act and tapping into the multi-billion dollar fund does sound ideal, but it could also deplete the dedicated safety net that’s typically used for natural disasters.

What Are Medical Professionals Saying?

Despite what level of funding is allocated or not, Thursday’s announcement is still a win for public health. According to a statement from Jon Morgenstern, PhD, Assistant Vice President, Addiction Services, Northwell Health, the signing “represents an important step in efforts to combat the epidemic of opioid misuse.” It has directed the attention toward communities grappling with opioid abuse and the need for additional resources. It also helped jumpstart conversations about more access to addiction treatment and the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.

Northwell is one health care facility poised to take action. According to Morgenstern, “Northwell Health is engaged in multiple efforts to address the opioid crisis in the communities we serve. These efforts include more targeted prescribing of opioid medications for pain, identifying and intervening with at-risk patients before opioid use progresses to opioid addiction, and working with our community partners and local government agencies to support linking patients to opioid prevention and treatment programs.”

Also, according to a report in The New York Times, Trump said his plan would include:

  • A requirement that federally employed prescribers must be trained in safe practices for medication-assisted treatments
  • A federal initiative to develop non-addictive painkillers
  • Greater efforts to block shipments of potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl, manufactured in China, into the U.S.

“While President Trump’s announcement is welcome, we join our community partners in urging rapid and bold action from the federal government that is commensurate with the declaration of a national public health emergency. The allocation of substantial additional resources to fund opioid prevention and treatment programs is clearly needed. We know that the actions we are taking are making a difference and saving lives, but much more can and should be done. We hope that President’s Trump speech represents an inflection point in the opioid crisis where greater public engagement and new federal resources will lead to effective programs that dramatically reduce overdose deaths and rates of opioid addiction,” Morgenstern continued in his statement to Delphi Behavioral Health Group.

Trump’s plan has potential, but beyond financially planning, questions still remain unanswered as to how and by whom this declaration will be carried out. Trump still needs to name the new Secretary of Health and Human Services and drug “czar”.

Nonetheless, he seems optimistic. “We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it,” Trump closed at the White House address.

How You Can Get Help

Amid public health policies and questions of funding, drug abuse is still real. If you or your loved one is burdened by addiction, help is all around you. Call Delphi’s caring and professional representatives at 844-899-5777 at any time. They will connect you to the right treatment center for your needs.