Trump pledges tough law-enforcement response to opioid crisis

President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the opioid crisis Tuesday Aug. 8 2017 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster N.J. From left are White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price Trump

Fighting the scourge of opioids

President Donald Trump yesterday vowed that the USA will fight and win the battle against the deadly opioid epidemic but stopped short of declaring it a national emergency as a White House Commission recommended last week.

Presidents have declared national emergencies dozens of times, but mostly for threats contained within a specific time and place.

The opioid crisis has been building for years. A national CDC study showing 25% of all drug overdose deaths were related to heroin in 2015.

Most recently, at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, in July, Trump raised the issue again when he assured rally-goers that he has already started making progress on the wall.

Fighting the scourge of opioids

Trump briefly addressed the problem Tuesday, meeting with health officials and members of his administration to receive an update on the crisis and speaking to reporters.

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have some of the nation's highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths due to heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and abuse of prescription opioids such as oxycodone.

The essential problem with Trump's approach, Piper added, is that it "makes it look like they are doing something even when they are not". "If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off", he said. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, "No good; really bad for you" in every way. If they became law, these bills would have stripped resources from treatment facilities and worsened problems for the 1.2 million people with substance-abuse issues who get insurance through the ACA's health-care expansion.

A state of emergency for the opioid crisis would likely be a little nebulous in its execution because the federal laws governing state-of-emergency status were designed for situations involving infectious diseases and natural disasters.

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"I know that physicians and other providers have oftentimes sensed that there is an incentive to provide narcotic medication and we need to do all that we can to make certain that, yes, people are provided appropriate narcotic medication when necessary, but no more than necessary", Price said.

The top recommendation from President Trump's commission on the opioid crisis was for the president to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency.

Price has a point. But not by much, experts say. It's also at odds with the recommendations of his own bipartisan opioid commission, led by New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Most behavioral health organizations would consider that a valid and welcome response. It would also put pressure on Congress to provide more funding.

Nonetheless, Trump stated that, "We've got a tremendous team of experts and people that want to beat this disgusting situation that's happened to our country - and we will". However, Trump was briefed by administration officials on the status of the opioid crisis. "We believe that, at this point, the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis, at this point, can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency", he said.

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On Tuesday, Trump announced his decision not to declare such a state of emergency.

Trump also advocated for more abstinence-based treatment to combat the opioid crisis.

Now, more than 200 days into his presidency, activists say the president has done little to help. The president's budget asks for $10.7 billion for drug treatment, a $200-million increase.

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