Trump opioid commission: No national emergency, but still a top priority

President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised to increase law enforcement and strengthen border security to "beat this disgusting situation" of drug abuse across the country, but he did not declare a national public health emergency as Gov. Chris Christie suggested and he made no mention of the governor's work on a commission the president created to address rampant heroin and opioid use.

"We're talking about what should be done and working through the department and through the other agencies to come forward with that coherent strategy, that comprehensive strategy and recommendation for the president, and will do so in short order", he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump attended a briefing, held at his New Jersey golf club, on the ever-worsening opioid crisis in the US, which is killing almost 150 people every day.

Nationally, the rate of opioid deaths is on the rise - every day 62 Americans die of an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Declaring a state of emergency is important in that it allows the government to quickly lift restrictions or waive rules for states and local governments to be able to stop waiting and take prompt actions.

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly spoke about opioid addiction and its impact in the United States - particularly in rural, lower-income and working-class areas.

"And we have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country", Mr Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation obtained by the Washington Post. "And nowhere do we pay the price as dearly as with prescription opioid medications".

Trump has pushed for deep cuts in federal aid to states for their Medicaid programs even as Medicaid has emerged as one of the most important tools in combating the crisis.

Trump focused mostly on law enforcement and shifted blame on the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The death of a Tampa high school senior in April - which authorities blamed on opiate intoxication - shows that the deadly drug epidemic is doing the impossible by bringing Republicans and Democrats, red and blue states, young and old and urban and suburban voters alike under the same threat. The crisis, they said, has moved beyond politics.

Instead, Trump said he wanted to focus on keeping people from becoming addicted in the first place.

On Monday, New Jersey Congressman Donald Norcross (D-1) wrote a letter to Trump and said the administration had not done enough to address the opioid epidemic. "Having a report like this, which has expert consensus behind it, is going to help us push that forward". The mere legalization of medical marijuana is associated with fewer opioid prescriptions and decreases in both opioid-related hospitalizations and overdoses.

The interim report, which the authors said would be updated in the fall, included several recommendations to lift restrictions on the use of federal funds.

He added that the option, like the rest of the policies suggested in the commission's report, was still "on the table".

  • Rogelio Becker