President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency Thursday afternoon, an effort he says will “require the resolve of the entire country.”
The declaration “marks a critical step in confronting the extraordinary challenge that we face,” Trump said.
The president and First Lady Melania Trump addressed a crowded White House East Room that included families who have lost loved ones to substance abuse. Notable administration officials Kellyanne Conway and Ben Carson joined the event.
Reflecting on her recent trip to West Virginia, the first lady billed the crusade against addiction as a joint effort between her and her husband, who she says has been “on the front lines of this epidemic.”
“The stigma of drug addiction must be normalized. And talking about it is the only way to do that,” Mrs. Trump said.
It was among the most public the first lady has ever been about an issue.
For his part, the president promised the declaration was more than just talk. He believes the initiatives will have a tremendous impact on what he believes is the “worst drug crisis in world history.”
He said the administration “will announce a new policy to overcome a restrictive 1970s-era rule that prevents states from providing care at certain treatment facilities with more than 16 beds for those suffering from a drug addiction.”
Some of the actual policies Trump billed include swift approvals to “unlock treatment” for patients in need of alternative pain relievers, renewed focuses within the mental health community and specialized training for federally employed prescribers. He spotlighted major drug realtor CVS, which earlier this year limited opioid prescription to a seven-day supply and encouraged other chains to follow suit.
This declaration may be viewed by critics as a rollback of Trump's promise in August to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.
An administration official told IJR flatly the announcement “isn't a flip-flop.”
Looking ahead to his upcoming trip to Asia, the president also noted he'd be taking this fight overseas, especially in China, which is a leading producer of fentanyl — a synthetic and highly addictive opioid. He suggested that putting a firm end to importing fentanyl would be a top priority during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The president revealed the opioid commission, headed by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), is set to unveil a completed report sometime next week with details on the scope and scale of the widespread opioid addiction.