The Department of Health and Human Services intends to use President Donald Trump’s donation of his third-quarter salary of $100,000 to plan and design a large-scale media campaign that highlights the dangers of opioid addiction.
Eric Hargan, acting secretary for HHS, said during a press briefing today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that he received a check from Trump to use for the fight against addiction. The money, he said, will be used to help build awareness about the opioid crisis.
The campaign will include personal messages of the dangers of getting addicted to opioids, he said.
In addition to promoting awareness, the government also intends to improve surveillance and data about the epidemic, research into pain and addiction, better pain management, and expand efforts to develop overdose-reversing drugs and provide better prevention, treatment and recovery services.
CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. said during the briefing that the opioid crisis is the biggest health threat today. Almost 100 Americans die each day by overdose from prescription opioids and illegal opioids, she said. But the deaths are just the tip of the iceberg.
The CDC, she said, aims to focus its efforts on people and prescribers. But the agency believes that messages from those who have had real experience with this addiction have the real power to change the nature of the epidemic, Fitzgerald said.
The biggest hurdle, however, is dealing with the sheer number of people already addicted to opioids, according to Hargan, who called the issue a “public health crisis of historic proportions.”
Fitzgerald said that for every overdose death, there are 80 people misusing illegal and legal drugs. Another 377 have misused the drugs in the past year and every day, 3,000 people are getting prescriptions for pain killers. “We didn’t get the problem overnight and we certainly won’t get out of it overnight,” she said.
However, it’s still unclear how much money the government will actually fund the efforts. When Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, he didn’t specify how he would fund initiatives to combat it. Congress remains divided: a House bill included roughly $15 billion and the Senate version had $45 billion, Hargan noted. Although they still need to come to agreement, Hargan said Congressional leaders are taking the issue seriously.