Warren, Murkowski: Where’s the emergency declaration on opioids?

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A Democratic and Republican senator are questioning why President Trump hasn’t officially declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, despite saying his administration was drafting the paperwork to do so two months ago.

“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,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wrote in a 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.

Murkowski and Warren both hail from states whose governors have declared the opioid epidemic a statewide public health emergency or disaster. According to the senators, the declarations accompanied efforts that helped each state better tackle opioid overdose deaths, which have more than quadrupled since 1999.

“Massachusetts and Alaska have been on the forefront of the opioid crisis that is sweeping our nation, and we are proud to represent states that have tackled the epidemic head on,” the two wrote. “We hope that you will back up your verbal commitment to fighting the ‘serious problem’ of opioid addiction with action.”

On Aug. 10, Trump told reporters “this is a national emergency, and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”

“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now, it is an emergency,” Trump said. “It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

The declaration was the “first and most urgent” recommendation in an initial report released this summer from the President’s commission to tackle the opioid epidemic. The panel’s final report is due Nov. 1.

The move would be unprecedented, as a national emergency declaration has never before been made for drug abuse. It’s unclear exactly what the order would mean and how it would work.

“The President’s policy advisors are working through the details with all of the relevant components and agencies. Right now these actions are undergoing a legal review,” a White House spokesman wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon.

Some advocates are frustrated that the declaration hasn’t yet been made. Others say they’d rather the administration take its time so as to get the declaration right. Some experts aren’t so sure the declaration is needed and say the president can use existing authorities to curb the crisis.

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