Letter to the Editor: The Opioid Epidemic is a National Emergency
January 19, 2018
Last summer, President Trump’s national opioid commission recommended that he declare the opioid epidemic a “national emergency” or a “public health emergency.” It was my hope that the President would choose the former, which would have allowed for the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to combat addiction. Instead, the president chose to declare a 90-day public health emergency which is set to expire on January 23. As we approach this deadline, it is clear that little has been achieved as a result.
Over the course of the past 90 days, the President has not dedicated any new funding or resources to combat addiction. Instead, he announced an awareness campaign that has yet to be seen. The Trump Administration also continues to operate without a Secretary of Health and Human Services or Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, both of which are crucial leadership positions needed to develop federal addiction strategy.
Public and state health officials largely agree that increased funding is needed to mitigate the crisis. For that reason, I have asked President Trump to declare a national emergency and fully fund more than 30 federal programs that support prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and recovery initiatives. I have also asked the Office of Management and Budget to provide Congress with a comprehensive proposal to provide additional funding in the next supplemental appropriations bill.
Drug overdose deaths in greater Minnesota have steadily increased since 2000, and the Minnesota Department of Health estimates that the majority are caused by opioid abuse. Now more than ever, Congress and the Trump Administration need to take immediate, effective, and consequential action to reverse this trend.