President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a war on drug addiction and opioid abuse, saying he would mobilize his entire administration to address the crisis now that he has officially determined it is a national public health emergency.
“We will defeat this opioid epidemic,” Trump said. “We will free our nation from the terrible affliction of drug abuse. And, yes, we will overcome addiction in America … We have fought and won many battles and many wars before, and we will win again.”
Although he didn’t offer specific actions the administration would take during his remarks or how they will be funded, Trump said federal agencies are working with doctors and medical professionals to implement best practices for safe opioid prescribing, and requiring that federally employed prescribers undergo special training.
The public health emergency directive allows the government to waive some restrictions, Trump said, such as a 1970s-era rule that prevents states from providing care at certain treatment facilities with more than 16 beds for those who suffer from drug addiction. But it doesn’t come with a substantial amount of funding that would have been available had Trump declared a national emergency under the Stafford Act, which would have allowed access to funding under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Later in the day the administration released a statement that provided some of the actions the government would take as a result of the declaration:
- Expand access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment.
- Allow the Department of Health and Human Services to quickly make temporary appointments of specialists who can help the agency respond to the crisis.
- Allow the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help those who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis (subject to available funding).
- Shift resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those programs to receive substance abuse treatment, an action that the administration noted is vital given the connection between HIV transmission and substance abuse.
Trump said during his remarks that he is awaiting a final report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and the administration will act quickly to evaluate and implement its recommendations.
The administration later said in a statement that since Trump took office the government has allocated or spent more than $1 billion to address drug addiction and the opioid crisis. That funding includes $800 million for prevention, treatment, first responders, prescription drug monitoring programs, recovery and other care in communities, inpatient settings, and correctional systems. It also includes $254 million in funding for high-risk communities, law enforcement, and first responder coordination and work.
Production editor Eli Richman contributed to this story.