Trump Donates Third-Quarter Salary to Opioid Crisis Efforts

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Trump Donates Third-Quarter Salary to Opioid Crisis Efforts

By Paul Fuhr 12/07/17

How far can $100,000 go in alleviating America's multi-billion dollar opioid problem?

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The true cost of the opioid epidemic is estimated at $500 billion.

President Donald Trump has donated his entire third-quarter salary to help combat the opioid crisis, according to the health news source STAT News.

The donation follows closely on the heels of Trump’s announcement that opioids pose a “public health emergency” in the U.S., as well as a series of recommendations from his own opioid commission. After donating his first and second-quarter salaries to the National Park Service and the Department of Education (respectively), Trump’s $100,000 donation to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is meant to help prop up a comprehensive media campaign that shines a spotlight on the dangers of drug addiction.

While many expected Trump to announce a full-scale national emergency in regards to opioids, the president instead opted to call for “really tough, really big, really great advertising” that echoed Nancy Reagan’s 1980s “Just Say No” campaign. Still, Trump maintained that “we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,” freeing up grant money to fight the problem.

The STAT story notes that, while laudable, Trump’s gesture won’t actually go very far. In fact, they referred to his donation as a “drop in the bucket” when considering the annual $500 billion price tag that comes with medical care, lost productivity, and law enforcement.

In a press briefing, acting health secretary Eric Hargan commented that the donation “is a tribute to his compassion, to his patriotism and his sense of duty to the American people.” The $100,000 donation will be funneled toward building awareness campaigns, improving surveillance, funding research into pain and addiction, and developing better treatment drugs, the White House said.

STAT, however, argues that it will be impossible to stretch Trump’s salary far enough to fulfill those promises. Instead, the site prepared a more measured, reasonable list for naloxone sprays and auto-injectors, methadone treatment, clean needles, and additional training for doctors, among other key tools to battle addiction.

One of the most practical suggestions was using the $100,000 donation to fund “six months’ salary for either his next health secretary or the drug czar’s,” the site said, noting that the salary is $199,700 for both jobs. Similarly, the money could be used to train 2,000 doctors on Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) as a means to “identify, reduce and prevent problematic use, abuse, and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs.” (Four-hour SBIRT training courses cost $50 in New York, the site noted.)

The STAT story breaks the $100,000 down other ways, too. The donation could buy 44 auto-injectors of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, which is sold in two-packs at $4,500 a pop. Instead, the same amount of money could buy 735 doses of naloxone nasal spray. One-hundred doses of extended-release naltrexone, which helps curb alcohol and drug cravings, could also be purchased with the donation. In fact, $100,000 could buy a full year’s worth of methadone treatment for 21 patients.

The most cost-effective way of using the donation, however, is in the form of clean needles, the STAT story said. As many as 103,000 clean needles could be used by a syringe exchange, given that it costs 97 cents for a sterile syringe.

Regardless of how the money is spent, the fact remains that $100,000 can only do so much to fight the unprecedented crisis that knows no bounds. Even worse, the relatively small donation echoes the small amount of federal funding Trump freed up by announcing the public health emergency ($57,000 in total).

The sobering truth, however, is that virtually any amount of money will be dwarfed by the crisis, which makes the way we use it that much more important.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty Magazine, The Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com

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