Trump calls opioid deaths 'a tremendous problem' but doesn't declare national emergency

10 August, 2017, 00:39 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Trump relatively quiet on opioid crisis despite campaign vows

President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised to increase law enforcement and strengthen border security to "beat this awful situation" of drug abuse across the country, but he did not declare a national public health emergency as Gov. Chris Christie suggested and he made no mention of the governor's work on a commission the president created to address rampant heroin and opioid use.

The White House commission recommended President Donald Trump declare the crisis a national emergency under the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.

While he acknowledged the severity of the problem and the threat opioids pose to all Americans, Trump did not talk about expanding addiction treatment or access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, two of the recommendations his commission on opioids made in its interim report last week.

The top recommendation from President Trump's commission on the opioid crisis was for the president to declare a national public health emergency. The Obama administration declared an emergency last August in Puerto Rico over the Zika virus, for example.

Trump stressed a continued focus on punishing drug dealers and tightening immigration to prevent drugs from entering the U.S. Famously, Trump launched his presidential campaign by saying "Mexicans" were "bringing drugs" into the country - something he promised to stop.

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NBC News reported the commission recommended expanding treatment facilities across the U.S., equipping police officers with the anti-overdose remedy Naloxone, and educating and equipping doctors on the proper way to prescribe pain medication.

"The lack of funding for essential treatment and recovery services is a persistent barrier to effectively addressing the opioid crisis", reads the letter, which was signed by nine other Democrats. The panel said that the proliferation of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times more potent than heroin that has been linked to an "alarming increase" in drug overdose deaths, has come primarily from China. The opioid crisis, he added, differs from national emergencies that typically follow infectious disease outbreaks or natural disasters for a set period of time.

Trump briefly addressed the problem Tuesday, meeting with health officials and members of his administration to receive an update on the crisis and speaking to reporters.

AWOL from the public policy event was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who served as the chairman to Trump's recently formed commission on drug overdose and opioid addiction.

"If they don't start, they won't have a problem", he told reporters. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off.

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"And we have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country", Mr Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation obtained by the Washington Post.

"I'm confident that by working with our healthcare and law enforcement experts, we'll fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win", Trump said.

In 2014 alone, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

He heralded Price as the person to lead his effort to tackle the issue, and said that no one is safe from opioid addiction. "We are going to solve that problem", Trump told the crowd. Everybody is threatened. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and opioid overdose deaths have almost quadrupled since 1999. Lean on law enforcement, he said.

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