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Trump Declares a Public Health Emergency

President Trump has declared the opioid epidemic in America a public health emergency. The announcement comes as deaths from opioid overdose continue to rise year after year. In 2016 opioid overdose killed more than 59,000 people–more than deaths by car accident and violent crime combined.

The declaration of a public health emergency will make grant money available for a variety of purposes and relax certain regulations about funding and hiring that might impede state and federal governments’ ability to deal with the crisis. The declaration is good for 90 days, after that it will have to be renewed.

Part of the response may be to expand remote health services to underserved rural areas, something like telecommuting to the doctor. The Trump administration is expected to work with congress to pass a spending package, including money that will go to the Public Health Emergency Fund, which currently has almost enough money to buy a new Lexus.

What the declaration of public health emergency doesn’t do is allocate federal money to directly address the crisis. That would have happened if President Trump had declared the opioid crisis a national emergency instead. Trump’s former director of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, was opposed to declaring a national emergency because he feared an open-ended commitment of federal funds might become exorbitant. Despite this objection, Trump had originally said he would declare a national emergency, but apparently he reconsidered.

At the moment, there is no cabinet level official who might oversee a response to a public health emergency. Tom Price resigned in September following the revelation he had flown in private jets at taxpayers’ expense. Trump’s nominee for drug czar, Representative Tom Marino, recently withdrew his name from consideration following a 60 Minutes report that Marino had sponsored a bill that protected drug distributors from DEA investigation.

Despite the uncertainty of what the declaration will entail, this is a positive step. That is to say, it’s better than nothing. It brings more attention to the crisis and it’s an issue that is likely to receive bipartisan attention. The details of the action remain to be seen. It seems unlikely that the administration will support action restricting the sale of opioids, but it may result in drugs like naloxone–the overdose antidote–becoming cheaper and more widely available. The declaration may make treatment more affordable and otherwise easier to get, possibly by allowing use of Medicare at a greater number of treatment centers.

With any luck, 2017 will have been the high water mark of the opioid epidemic. Although media coverage of the crisis tends to focus on the stunning death toll, each death is an individual and personal tragedy. You can’t save all of the 60,000 people who will likely die this year of opioid addiction, but you can save yourself and possibly someone you love. Call Gardens Wellness Center today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more about detox and treatment.