President signals reversal after previously appearing to oppose declaration: We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency.
Donald Trump signaled he could soon declare a state of emergency in an attempt to deal with America’s opioid overdose crisis.
A commission reporting to the president said recently that declaring a state of emergency was its first and most urgent recommendation.
But Trump, in his first remarks on the subject, appeared to set his face against treating the epidemic as a health emergency calling instead for tougher prison sentences and strong, strong law enforcement.
However, returning to the issue on Thursday, Trump seemed to have changed his tone. We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency, he said, adding the administration is drawing documents now too so attest.
It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had, Trump said at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, where he is on a working vacation.
The president can declare a state of emergency two legal ways: he could use the Stafford Act, or the Public Health Service Act, which is specific to health emergencies and can be declared by the health secretary.
Trump compared the opioid epidemic to LSD.
When I was growing up they had the LSD, and they had certain generations of drugs, Trump said. There’s never been anything like whats happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide.
In fact, while drug overdoses happen all over the world, the US leads by a significant margin. Though the nation has just 4% of the world’s population, the US also has 27% of the worlds drug overdose deaths, according to the UNs 2017 World Drug Report.
For example, for every million Americans between 15 and 64 years old, 245 people per year die of drug overdoses. In Mexico, four people per million die of drug overdoses.
Trump’s announcement came one week after a White House commission on curbing opioid addiction recommended the president make the emergency declaration. Emergency declarations are rarely used on a national scale and typically reserved for natural disasters and infectious diseases such as the H1N1 flu virus.
If the administration follows through, an emergency declaration would empower the government to quickly expand access to inpatient treatment services and negotiate lower prices for the overdose reversal drug naloxone, according to the commissions interim report.
It could also remove some layers of bureaucracy to expedite data-sharing, funds distribution and laws that improve access to treatment. Addiction experts said the declaration would send a message that the Trump administrations response to the crisis emphasizes a health-first approach.
So far, the administration has instead favored policies that limit access to health care, harshly penalize drug users and cut funds for agencies tasked with addressing the crisis.
Trump convened the bipartisan opioid commission, which is led by the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, in March. The commissions final report is due by 1 October.
This article was originally published in The Guardian. Image courtesy of Reuter/AFP/Getty Images.