Health News

Opioid Commission Urges Trump to Declare State of Emergency

"Our country needs you, Mr. President."

Photo via Governor’s Office

The White House commission dedicated to fighting opioid abuse is calling on President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency around the epidemic.

“The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act,” reads an interim report released Monday. “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.”

President Trump campaigned on fighting the opioid epidemic and has repeatedly restated his desire to do so, but his commitment while in office has been spotty. In May, for example, the White House proposed a 95 percent budget cut to the Office of National Drug Control and Policy, a move that was quickly rolled back due to widespread, bipartisan outcry. Proposed replacements to the Affordable Care Act—none of which have made it through the Senate—have also been criticized for their treatment of addiction and mental health issues.

A statement from the White House says its staff will “immediately begin reviewing” the commission’s report.

The five-person commission is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and also includes Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and Harvard researcher Bertha Madras.

Other recommendations in its inaugural report include increasing treatment capacity through Medicaid reimbursements; improving education standards for prescribers and medical students; expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and naloxone; taking more drastic measures to stop fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid, from entering the country; and better enforcing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires insurance plans that cover behavioral health to treat mental and physical diagnoses equally.

“Our country needs you, Mr. President,” the report concludes. “We know you care deeply about this issue. We also know that you will use the authority of your office to deal with our nation’s problems.”