NPR, October 26, 2017
Greg Allen and Amita Kelly


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President Trump declared a public health emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic Thursday, freeing up some resources for treatment. More than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history," Trump said, adding, "it's just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort."

"We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said.

President Trump also directed agency and department heads to use all appropriate emergency authorities to reduce the number of deaths caused by the opioid crisis.

Trump spoke personally about his brother Fred who struggled with alcoholism and died in his 40s. Because of him, Trump said, he had never tried alcohol or cigarettes. "He would tell me 'don't drink, don't drink," Trump said. "He had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol."

The administration will also launch an ad campaign so that young people can see "the devastation and ruination [drugs cause] people and people's lives."

The move stops short of declaring the crisis a national emergency, which Trump first said in August that he would declare. He repeated that pledge this week. But the White House said it determined that declaring a public health emergency was more appropriate than a national emergency.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaboration at Brandeis University's Heller School, calls the announcement "very disappointing." Without funding for new addiction treatment, he says, declaring a public health emergency isn't enough. "This is not a plan," he says. "The administration still has no plan" for dealing with opioids, he says. [...]

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