Trump rejects call to declare opioid epidemic a national emergency

The Trump administration is declining to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, despite a recommendation from the president’s opioid commission calling that its “first and most urgent recommendation.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceWhite House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Overnight Health Care: CBO finds bill delaying parts of ObamaCare costs B | Drug CEO defends 400 percent price hike | HHS declares health emergency ahead of hurricane HHS should look into Azar's close ties to the drug industry MORE indicated on Tuesday that declaring a national emergency isn’t necessary because the administration is already empowered to help curb the epidemic.

Price said other national emergencies for public health have been focused on a “time-limited problem, either an infectious disease or a specific threat to public health.”

Though, Price didn’t completely rule it out in the future.

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“We believe at this point that 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, although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said at a press briefing.  

A reporter pressed Price, asking if a national emergency declaration would better free up resources. Price responded that measures can be taken — and already are being taken — without the declaration.

The impact of declaring a national emergency isn’t directly clear. Earlier at the press briefing, Price said “the president believes that we will treat it as an emergency and it is an emergency.”

Since 1999, deaths from opioids have quadrupled as the country grapples with a nationwide epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In late March, President Trump created a commission to help curb the opioid epidemic, which released an interim report last week.

On Tuesday, Trump and Price — along with other administration officials and advisers — had a private briefing on the opioid epidemic.

Before the meeting, Trump promised an intense effort on opioids, specifically vowing to work with law enforcement inside and outside of the country.

“We're being very, very strong on our southern border — and I would say the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report of his remarks.