Trump Officially Declares Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency

Nearly three months after signaling his intention to do so, President Donald Trump this week officially directed the acting director of the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The declaration will permit public health agencies to redirect existing resources to address the crisis, eliminate or reduce “bureaucratic delays” in hiring personnel, and expand access to telemedicine, including remote prescribing of medication assisted treatment (MAT).

The declaration by the Trump Administration is narrower in scope than what his own opioid commission recommended and does not include any funding to combat the crisis. Currently, the amount in the HHS public health emergency fund is around $57,000. Senior Administration officials indicated there have been ongoing discussions with Congress around the appropriate level of funding to address the emergency and that Trump may ask Congress for additional opioid funds later this year. Senate Democrats this week introduced a bill that would appropriate $45 billion toward the epidemic, and several Republicans also support additional funds to address the crisis.

Notably, the declaration does not include several of the top priority needs of state and local officials, such as access to naloxone. The declaration of a public health emergency lasts 90 days and can be renewed until the emergency no longer exists.