Trump declares public health emergency in response to national opioid epidemic

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images

Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images

And this week, Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said his agency plans to encourage wider use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine to treat patients with opioid addiction, a step widely seen as critical to addressing the crisis.

Trump said his oldest brother, Fred Trump Jr., died of complications of an alcohol addiction.

Changing the policy entirely - which is known as the IMD exclusion - would take congressional action.

The declaration has significant meaning for New Hampshire, which has been adversely affected by the opioid crisis for over a decade.

There are some concerns that inpatient treatment should not always be prioritized, and that treatment in such facilities takes people out of their communities, which can provide a stable source of support for people embarking on recovery. This decision led to quick criticism that without new funding, what Trump had done amounted to little more than a gesture.

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Deaths caused by opioid overdose have almost quadrupled since 1999, which is why Mr. Trump said he was making addiction a top priority.

Trump's declaration, however, does not make additional federal funding available to address the opioid crisis.

Federal health officials are going to launch a task force to come up with best practices for treating pain, Trump announced.

"After we review and evaluate the commission's findings, I will quickly move to implement an approximate and appropriate recommendation", Trump said.

Some advocates worry even that won't make enough difference.

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"I want the American people to know the federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts", he said. Right now the opioid crisis is getting worse.

Trump said "it's really, really easy" not to use drugs if you never start - and suggested public education would be an important strategy for the government.

The President used his brother Fred's struggles with alcohol as the reason why he stayed away from drinking and smoking.

But that's also an explanation that overlooks how some people become addicted to opioids.

The announcement will surely be welcomed in places like Vermont that have been ravaged by the abuse of prescribed drugs like OxyContin and illegal substances like heroin, banned as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

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"What's going on there [with] the drugs pouring into the country", Trump said.

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