by Brittany Greve
“No part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural — has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids,” President Trump said on October 26 in the presence of families affected by opioid abuse, members of Congress and administration officials. “This epidemic is a national health emergency.” President Trump has been a strong supporter of the fight against opioid abuse, which was a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. Now he is working towards implementing a plan that would begin to combat the problem affecting all of the families in attendance and the thousands who are currently addicted to opioids.
In declaring the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency,” the president detailed the statistics of a nationwide problem. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, doctors in the U.S. have written more than 250 million prescriptions for painkillers, including Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, in just the past year.
With Trump’s declaration of a “public health emergency,” the federal government will be able to waive some regulations, give states more flexibility in how they use federal funds and expand the use of telemedicine treatment, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on Thursday morning. Drew student, Trevor Hurst, (‘19) stated that “there is a valid case for expanding the Naloxone availability to first responders,” which is an aspect of the updates in the administration’s plan. Though these initiatives are clear steps towards a solution, many of the policies that Trump outlined in his speech are already underway and have been for some time.
Trump is passionate about not only implementing a solution but raising awareness simultaneously. Janique Goberdhan (‘18), skeptical about the urgency of the situation, stated, “I mean I do agree that the opioid problem is a serious thing, it’s just that I don’t know if it’s up there to be a state of emergency.” Though awareness is a part of the solution, Trump’s announcement drew sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers and public health advocates who questioned his commitment to the crisis, given that Trump made no immediate request to Congress for funding. While Trump is clearly devoted to this public health crisis, his current health care plan would end the Obamacare requirement that addiction services and mental health treatment be covered under Medicaid in 31 states. According to the New York Times, Democratic lawmakers also argued that the federal government’s decision to allocate money from the Public Health Emergency Fund is simply not enough since the current fund is barely above $57,000. While the federal government has only allocated $57,000 so far, they have estimated that the crisis costs $75 billion annually.
According to the Washington Post, the emergency will last 90 days from the time that President Trump announced it, but it can repeatedly be renewed. While it can be renewed, it seems that officials in the White House do not have a solid plan in place for how they will use the next 90 days.