Trump declares opioids a USA public health emergency

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images

Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images

Some were disappointed he didn't use the Stafford Act mechanism to fight the problem because it would have made more money available.

Here is what the declarations mean for health IT. But the move stops short of declaring a national emergency, which would have freed up additional federal funds to combat the epidemic. "Nobody has seen anything like what's going on now".

"We think of prevention services - sometimes they're funded by bake sales and PTOs - and that's just not how we pay for public health awareness on other diseases and conditions", Criss says.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin of ME, R-2nd District, a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, praised the president's action and said he hopes it leads to more sustained action. The death rate has kept rising, estimates show.

Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl - a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine - are fueling the drug overdoses.

The President said that a year ago at least 64,000 Americans died from overdoses - the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the U.S. "by far".

"Addressing it will require all of our effort, and it will require us to confront the crisis in all of its real complexity", Trump said during a speech in the East Room of the White House, where he was joined by first lady Melania Trump and New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, chairman of a presidential commission on combating the crisis.

In an interview Wednesday night with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business Network, the president again alluded to the announcement he planned to make.

Officials told reporters on the conference call that Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that would have been released under a national emergency are already exhausted from recent storms that struck Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida. "I'm pushing the Senate to act as quickly as possible on four bipartisan bills, including the STOP Act to help stop risky synthetic drugs from being shipped into our country; the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which will help stop overprescribing; the Medicaid CARE Act to lift the cap on Medicaid funding for mental health and substance abuse facilities and the CRIB Act to help newborns born dependent on drugs recover".

Two senior administration officials confirmed to ABC News that the president will direct acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan to announce a nationwide public health emergency and also direct agency heads of other departments and agencies to exercise emergency authorities to minimize deaths and damage caused by the opioid crisis.

"This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs", Mr. Trump said, "it's really, really easy not to take them".

The President says the feds will bring "major lawsuits" against companies who are "bad actors".

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. Congress is investigating the business practices of manufacturers. "There is nothing desirable about drugs". HIV/AIDS health funding would also be prioritised for those who need substance abuse treatment, officials said.

Sen. Angus King of ME, an independent, has become a leading voice on the opioid crisis and prior to the president's announcement called for a comprehensive approach and more funding.

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