Trump administration extends opioid public health emergency

The Trump administration has extended its opioid public health emergency, according to a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson, as lawmakers and White House officials grapple with how to combat a crisis killing more people per year than car accidents.

This is the second extension of the national public health emergency, which President Trump first announced in a declaration in late October. The initial order lasted 90 days, as does each extension by the Health and Human Services secretary.

In making the declaration in October, Trump said "we can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic."

Some addiction advocates have been critical of the nation's response to the opioid epidemic, however, saying that the country isn't doing enough to stem the crisis.  

In March, Trump released a three-pronged plan to combat the opioid epidemic that included some ideas popular with public health advocates. But the plan faced backlash for its mandate to the Department of Justice to seek the death penalty for certain drug traffickers when appropriate under current law.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is leading the president's opioid strategy, has since said that Trump is referring to "drug kingpins" and suggested that the threat of the death penalty would "punish and deter" them, BuzzFeed reports.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are working to hammer out legislation aimed at combatting the epidemic. The Senate Health Committee is marking up its bipartisan bill Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will vote on over 60 bills beginning Wednesday.

Deaths involving opioids are continuing to rise, and increased nearly 28 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.