Washington, October 26: U.S. President Donald Trump plans to declare a nationwide public health emergency Thursday to address an escalating opioid crisis that killed more than 175 people each day last year.
Senior administration officials told reporters Thursday morning the declaration will give states more flexibility to use federal funds, although it will not come with specific funds. The declaration will also broaden the use of telemedicine and remove some regulations.
Officials said Trump wants to include money for the crisis in a year-end budget agreement but to accomplish that, one official said the administration would have to have an “ongoing discussion” with Congress.
The president did not declare a more comprehensive national state of emergency as recommended by his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. A national state of emergency would have provided states access to funding from the Federal Disaster Relief Fund, which is used to help manage response and recovery efforts associated with disasters such as hurricanes.
Officials said a national state of emergency would not have been the best approach for a long-term crisis and would not have provided authorities with resources the government does not already have.
Trump will sign a presidential memorandum that will order the Department of Health and Human Services the declare the public health emergency and direct all federal agencies to use any emergency powers at their disposal to reduce opioid deaths.
Officials said the emergency would be in effect for 90 days and can be repeatedly renewed.
Trump promised on the campaign trail to make the opioid crisis a top priority. It has developed into one of the nation’s most urgent public health issues, claiming a life every 19 minutes, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. The Medical Care Journal estimated last year the economic cost of opioid overdoses, dependence, and abuse was nearly $79 billion.(VOA)