Future of Opioid Emergency Remains Unclear Under Trump

By Kelly Burch 02/01/18

After little action in 90 days, the HHS Secretary renewed Trump's opioid emergency declaration.

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In October, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. However, the proclamation needs to be renewed every 90 days, and there was little discussion of the opioid epidemic leading up to the end of the 90-day period.

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan released a statement that renewed the “determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide… as a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation.”

However, according to ABC News, the Department of Health and Human Services would not comment on whether the proclamation would be renewed every 90 days. The lack of acknowledgement from the president left some people feeling that the administration was ignoring the issue.

Adding to some people's frustration was the fact that Trump spent only 49 seconds during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night talking about the opioid epidemic. As has become his habit, the president focused on law enforcement and immigration reform as a solution to the opioid epidemic.

“In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses: 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour. We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” the president said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need. The struggle will be long and difficult—but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.”

He then went on to highlight Ryan and Rebecca Holets, a family from Albuquerque, New Mexico who adopted a baby whose mother was a heroin user. “Ryan and Rebecca: You embody the goodness of our nation. Thank you, and congratulations,” said Trump.

The Trump Administration has been criticized for talking about solutions to the opioid epidemic but not providing funding or policy changes that would lead to more treatment and prevention options. Although Trump declared a public health emergency, the administration did not release any funds for fighting addiction.

“His [State of the Union] remarks ring hollow―no new proposals, no call for substantial new resources,” Daniel Raymond, policy director at the Harm Reduction Coalition, told The Huffington Post. “If Trump were running a corporation to end this crisis, shareholders looking for results would be ready to oust him.”

During the State of the Union speech, Democrats wore purple ribbons aimed to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.