Trump declares opioids a public health emergency


WASHINGTON (AP) — In ringing and personal terms, President Donald Trump on Thursday pledged to “overcome addiction in America,” declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency and announcing new steps to combat what he described as the worst drug crisis in U.S. history.

Trump’s declaration, which will be effective for 90 days and can be renewed, will allow the government to redirect resources, including toward expanded access to medical services in rural areas. But it won’t bring new dollars to fight a scourge that kills nearly 100 Americans a day.

“As Americans we cannot allow this to continue,” Trump said in a speech at the White House, where he bemoaned an epidemic he said had spared no segment of American society, affecting rural areas and cities, the rich and the poor and both the elderly and newborns.

Officials said they also would urge Congress, during end-of-the year budget negotiations, to add new cash to a public health emergency fund that Congress hasn’t replenished for years. The Public Health Emergency Fund currently contains just $57,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, a negligible amount. Officials would not disclose how much they were seeking.

But critics said Thursday’s words weren’t enough.

President Donald Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency - a step that won’t bring new dollars to fight a scourge that kills nearly 100 Americans a day. (Oct. 26)

“How can you say it’s an emergency if we’re not going to put a new nickel in it?” said Dr. Joseph Parks, medical director of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health, which advocates for addiction treatment providers. “As far as moving the money around,” he added, “that’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi called the new declaration “words without the money.”

Trump’s audience Thursday included parents who have lost children to drug overdoses, people who have struggled with addiction, and first responders whose have used overdose reversal drugs to save lives.