UPDATE 2 — 8/25, 9:27 a.m. EDT: NBC News reported Thursday that President Trump has yet to sign a formal declaration making America’s opioid crisis a national emergency two weeks after announcing his intention to do so.
“The president recently instructed his administration to take all appropriate measures to confront the opioid crisis,” a White House spokesperson said. “Right now these actions are undergoing an expedited legal review.”
Once a national emergency is declared, Congress is expected to release federal funds to help combat the epidemic, which killed almost 35,000 Americans in 2015.
UPDATE — 8/21, 9:48 a.m. EDT: Speaking to the Associated Press during a visit to Beijing on Monday, Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price praised China for its responsiveness in attempting to cut off a large source of dangerous opioids that have flooded the American market in recent years.
“When a particular drug is identified as being a problem, China has been an incredible partner in helping to stop the production of drugs like fentanyl in China,” he said.
In July, for example, Chinese authorities made illegal a designer drug used as an alternative to powerful and sometimes deadly painkillers, including carfentanil. According to the DEA, China is a primary production source of synthetic opioids which have ravaged America and contributed to thousands of premature deaths.
President Trump made a statement Thursday, Aug. 10, informing the nation he was instructing his staff to begin drafting the appropriate paperwork to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency.
In the past, presidents have declared national emergencies for short term problems, like natural disasters or outbreaks of viruses.
Designating a national emergency allows for more resources to be allocated quicker and more widespread, while allowing for certain measures to be taken immediately instead of going through the typical checks and balances in place that often take months to be approved.
“(The opioid crisis) is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had,” Trump said. “You know when I was growing up, they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. . . . This is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”
Many advocates are applauding President Trump’s actions in combating opioid use. However, while declaring the epidemic a national emergency provides more funding and resources, advocates also acknowledge it is not enough to solve the problem. Many consider the president’s declaration an attempt to bring more awareness, but want more immediate action.
Two days prior to President Trump’s announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price advised the president that the declaration was unnecessary. President Trump, however, decided the issue was pressing enough to go against the secretary’s advice and act on the recommendation of the White House commission on opioid abuse, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it,” the commission’s August report read. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”
Currently, six states have declared a statewide emergency regarding opioid use and Trump hopes to see more states take similar steps after his national declaration.
A national emergency of this nature has never been before seen, and the impact it will have on the opioid crisis could potentially shape how such epidemics are handled in the future. If successful, the public could see an increase in the federal government declaring other tragic events as emergencies.
[Reuters] [The Hill] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Free Thought Project]