Update 8/8 5:23 p.m. ET: Following a meeting with the president regarding the opioid crisis, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price told reporters Trump wouldn’t declare a state of emergency right now.
“We believe that at this point, the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis, at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said.
President Donald Trump is expected to give what he’s calling a “major briefing” to the nation Tuesday about the nation’s opioid crisis. The address, delivered from his home in Bedminster, New Jersey, comes on the heels a new report from his presidential opioid task force, which called for the president to declare a state of emergency around the issue.
An emergency declaration would add public attention and political momentum to the issue, and it would also let the Trump administration fast-track a number of policy steps to address the crisis, which the report says is killing so many Americans it’s the equivalent of “September 11th every three weeks.”
Examples include expanding much-needed access to Medicaid funding for treatment, directing the Drug Enforcement Agency to require additional training for opioid prescribers, and tapping into federal grant money for medical crises.
Still, critics say a declaration wouldn’t fully address the crisis.
Many have pointed out that the president’s commission didn’t address the effects of repealing the Affordable Care Act. According to a Congressional Budget Office score of the most recent Republican proposal to eliminate the law, 16 million people would lose their healthcare over the next 10 years.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat who sits on the bipartisan commission chaired by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, said the ACA repeal — and the fate of Medicaid that goes along with it — was “the elephant in the room.”
Others, like Gary Mendell, founder of addiction group Shatterproof, said the report focused too much on medicine and not enough on other holistic ways to approach the problem, like behavioral and family therapy.
“There are not enough trained therapists to deliver those,” Mendell told the New York Daily News.
No matter how many therapists there are, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2018 could cancel out steps it is taking to address the opioid crisis. Big cuts are proposed for entities like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.