White House to host opioid 'event' Thursday

White House to host opioid 'event' Thursday
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The White House will hold an event on the opioid epidemic Thursday afternoon, according to an email obtained by The Hill that suggests President Trump will make his announcement about a national emergency this week.

The email, from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is an invitation and a call to RSVP to an event at the White House on the “nationwide opioid crisis” at 2 p.m. Thursday.

It’s not clear exactly what the event will be, but President Trump said he planned to declare the epidemic a national emergency this week. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Emergency declarations are typically used to provide short-term help, so there are not any guidelines for what one would look like for the opioid epidemic. Axios reported Monday morning that Trump will officially declare the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency this week and discuss combating the crisis on Thursday.

Trump will “sign an executive document” that directs agencies to take all actions to combat the crisis, according to Axios.  

Typically, the HHS secretary declares a public health emergency, which is usually reserved for infectious diseases. The president could declare a national emergency under the Stafford Act, which is typically used for natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

There’s been confusion over the national emergency declaration since there’s never before been one for a drug epidemic. For one, there are questions over how long it would last and what the parameters would be for ending the emergency.

Some advocates and lawmakers say any declaration must come with new funding to make it effective. The public health emergency fund has only $57,000 left, according to an HHS official.  Congress could provide a supplemental appropriation but while that means more money, it wouldn't necessarily happen quickly.

There’s been some frustration over the length of time it’s been since Trump said his administration was drafting the emergency declaration paperwork over two months ago. This prompted a bipartisan letter from Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Week ahead: Trump expected to shrink two national monuments GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling MORE (R-Alaska) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Regulation: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court battle | Watchdog to investigate EPA chief's meeting with industry group | Ex-Volkswagen exec gets 7 years for emissions cheating Overnight Tech: Net neutrality supporters predict tough court fight | Warren backs bid to block AT&T, Time Warner merger | NC county refuses to pay ransom to hackers Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (D-Mass.), who both hail from states whose governors had declared the opioid epidemic a statewide public health emergency or disaster.

“We applaud your stated commitment to addressing opioid addiction and agree with you that the crisis is a ‘serious problem’ deserving of increased federal resources,” Warren and Murkowski wrote in an Oct 12 letter to Trump, referring to comments he made on Aug. 10.

“However, we are extremely concerned that 63 days after your statement, you have yet to take the necessary steps to declare a national emergency on opioids, nor have you made any proposals to significantly increase funding to combat the epidemic,” the senators continued.

On Aug. 10, Trump said his administration was drafting paperwork to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, which served as the“first and most urgent” recommendation in an interim report from the president’s commission to address the opioid crisis.

When a reporter asked about the declaration at a press conference last week, Trump said “we are going to be doing that next week. By the way, you know that’s a big step,” saying it had been “time-consuming work.”

The nationwide opioid crisis has caused the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin to quadruple since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

– This report was updated at 3:57 p.m. EST