Trump declares opioid crisis a national public health emergency

President Trump said in August 2017 that he believed the opioid crisis constitutes a national emergency but did not issue any formal declaration

The number of prescription opioids legally sold almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, despite no change in the amount of pain that Americans reported, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "It's a national emergency", Trump said at the time.

The opioid epidemic killed 64,000 Americans in 2016, prompting Trump to call it the "worst drug crisis in our nation's history".

The president's directive will allow federal agencies to hire more public health workers. Senior administration officials said that they chose the Public Health Service Act because the Stafford Act is typically focused on natural disasters and specific geographic areas. But it remains unclear what impact Trump's new order will have on the crisis.

"A nationwide public health emergency will really reorient all of the federal government and executive branch's resources towards focusing on providing relief for this urgent need", an official said.

"I think that maybe I'm the only one, I think that there are a lot of people that have lost two", says Jean McCauley about the unfathomable distinction of losing all three of her sons to opioid overdoses.

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The Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS now stands at $57,000, according to an agency spokesperson, and officials said the president's declaration won't yet include a request for Congress to replenish the fund. The declaration doesn't make new funds available to deal with the crisis as much as it allows for the redirection of existing funds. Although the epidemic is increasingly being driven by heroin and the illicit use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, many people developed addictions after being prescribed opioids by their doctors for legitimate pain treatment - a fact that first lady Melania Trump highlighted as she told stories of people she had met has she has learned more about the epidemic.

Sununu issued a press statement following the announcement, in which he praised Trump's efforts as the first president to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

She also said Medicaid expansion and the drug treatment services provided under the Affordable Care Act that Trump has tried to repeal "have gone a long way to providing invaluable care to those in the grips of addiction".

"After we review and evaluate the commission's findings, I will quickly move to implement an approximate and appropriate recommendation", Trump said.

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