Trump Just Declared the Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency
Deaths from opioids have continued to rise, making the drug problem reach epidemic levels. In fact, in August, President Donald Trump called the opioid crisis a “national emergency.”
Since then, he had vowed to formally declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency—akin to what would usually be set aside for problems such as infectious disease outbreaks or hurricane aftermaths.
Now, he’s asking his Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. It’s not quite on the level of a national declaration of emergency—which would quickly free up federal funds—but it can still allow for some grant money to combat the issue, the New York Times says. It’s also possible it can help with rules and regulations that are currently in place on the issue.
So just how severe is the opioid crisis, really, to warrant such an action?
Well, just look at the numbers. More than 30,000 Americans die from opioid and prescription painkiller overdoses annually, according tothe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And men are overwhelmingly affected: Two-thirds of those annual deaths are men, according to the same data. What’s more, the number of men who overdosed on synthetic opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl, jumped 102 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Research released from Princeton University in September also found that 20 percent of the drop in men’s labor force participation over the past three years could be linked to opioid use. (Here’s what you can do to help the opioid crisis today.)
The public health emergency declaration for the opioid epidemic comes on the heels of six states that have already declared states of emergency for the opioid epidemic: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia.
“It’s a truly devastating emergency. In these states, you’ve got everybody from the governor to the attorney general to state legislators focused on it as the No. 1 issue, and they’re still not able to turn it around. It’s that scary,” says Jim Langford, executive director of the Georgia Prevention Project.
Under the declared state of emergency, most states allowed law enforcement and the public to more broadly dispense naloxone (known by the brand name NARCAN), an antidote that rapidly reverses the effects of opioids. The federal government has also provided financial assistance to states through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (called CARA), passed last year by Congress.