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Trump opioid commission: No national emergency, but still a top priority

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 08. 2017 9:10PM
President Donald Trump delivers remarks to reporters as he meets with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and flanked by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to discuss opioid addiction during a briefing at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, N.J., on Monday. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

While fighting opioid abuse remains a top priority for the Trump administration, U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price said that the crisis can be addressed without declaring a national emergency.

President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, in an interim report released last week, recommended the President declare an emergency. Trump stopped short of that on Tuesday.

“It is a problem the likes of which we have not seen,” Trump told reporters Tuesday, speaking at his golf club in New Jersey. “We will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win,” Trump said. “We will win; we have no alternative.”

Price said Tuesday the administration would make sure resources are available for prevention, treatment, and recovery, while not losing sight of the crisis at hand.

“We will treat it as an emergency, and it is an emergency,” he said at a news conference.

Price said most national emergencies focus on a specific threat or time period, such as the nation’s response to the Zika virus and Hurricane Sandy. Yet, he said all options are on the table for Trump.

The commission cited government data showing that since 1999, U.S. opioid overdoses have quadrupled; nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids such as heroin and Percocet, OxyContin and fentanyl.

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks,” commission members wrote in a report. “Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”

“The time has come to declare it a national emergency,” said Lou Gargiulo, a Hampton Falls man who served as Trump’s Rockingham County campaign co-chairman.

Gargiulo said resources are lacking for treatment and recovery, as well as for law enforcement efforts.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, and U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, co-signed a letter to the President asking for him to call on Congress to provide emergency appropriations to combat the epidemic.

“The lack of funding for essential treatment and recovery services is a persistent barrier to effectively addressing the opioid crisis,” reads the letter, which was signed by nine other Democrats. “There has been insufficient investment in treatment options by the federal government and it has made a national response to this crisis slow and inconsistent.”

Information from Reuters was used in this report.


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