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Are Trump's Actions Enough to Stop the Opioid Crisis?

Are Trump's Actions Enough to Stop the Opioid Crisis?
President Donald Trump speaks during an event highlighting the opioid crisis in the U.S. October 26, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 08 November 2017 03:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Last month, in a banner speech, President Trump declared the national opioid epidemic a public health emergency. Trump proclaimed, “it is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of addiction.” Though the president’s announcement came off forceful and resolute, it’s unclear whether the Trump administration will actually affect any real change on the issue.

The statistics present an overwhelmingly grim picture of U.S. citizens’ dependence on opioids. According to the White House, more than two million Americans had an addiction to prescription or illicit opioids in 2016. Since 2000, 300,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses, with 52,404 deaths in 2015 alone. It is estimated that over 64,000 people overdosed in 2016 — that’s 175 deaths a day. This startling statistic is more than the number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War. Needless to say, opioid addiction is a serious problem and something needs to be done.

Designating the crisis as a public health emergency will have some advantages. As a result, the administration’s departments will be required to use available resources to fight the epidemic. This action will expand access to telemedicine services, and allow the Department of Health and Human Services to easily appoint specialists needed to respond to the public health emergency. The Department of Labor will issue dislocated worker grants to those workers affected by the opioid crisis, and shift resources within the HIV/AIDS programs to help those eligible receive substance abuse treatment.

Many have praised Trump for officially bringing attention to the opioid crisis and summoning the full force of the federal government to fight this epidemic. However, the crisis needs more than just a good start. In order to fight the opioid crisis, the government needs to launch a full-on attack, and so far the President’s plan falls short.

Trump could have declared the crisis a full-on national emergency, which would have immediately freed up billions of dollars for emergency response, addiction treatment, and efforts to curtail the illegal distribution of opioids across the U.S. The president’s opioid commission recommended this more comprehensive approach, which would mimic the response efforts to natural disasters, and put more money where the president’s mouth is. Trump’s public health emergency designation does little to provide adequate funding to respond to the crisis. In fact, Forbes recently reported that only $57,000 is being set aside for relief efforts.

The president also announced that the administration would produce “really big, really great advertising” aimed at promoting awareness of the epidemic and the harmful effects of opioids to younger generations. This strategy is reminiscent of the Reagan-era “Just Say No” campaign.

Trump is on to something — it will take a radical culture change to truly fight the epidemic. Advertising may be an effective vehicle for bringing about this change, but it must be done right. Anti-smoking ad campaigns provide a good example. Such a campaign would need to be conducted with empathy and care, so as not to create an impression of “doom and gloom” as is often associated with addicts.

It’s uncertain who in the Trump administration would lead the opioid response. The president was forced to withdraw his nominee for head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Representative Tom Marino. In addition, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to step down due to his use of private jets.

Thus far, the states have proved to be more successful than the federal government at fighting the opioid crisis. In Alabama, state leaders such as Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall have done an excellent job in curtailing the effects of the crisis in a state that has one of the highest opioid prescription rates in the nation. Marshall has joined several other state attorney generals to investigate the sale and marketing of opioids by wholesalers, while Ivey’s opioid council is expected to present solutions to the epidemic in the form of legislation, policy, and community action.

America’s opioid epidemic must be stopped before it spins hopelessly out of control. While President Trump’s public health emergency declaration is a good start, it falls short of the increased funding, strong leadership, and a change in culture that are truly needed to combat the crisis. Governor Chris Christie, chairman of the president’s opioid commission recently remarked, “I still have not seen the passion for this epidemic that I saw in the AIDS epidemic.” Until that passion is evident from the president down to the smallest community leaders, this epidemic will continue to wreak havoc on the American people.

Special thanks to Daniel Bruce, a member of my law firm, who helped research, edit and assist me in writing this article.

Christopher Reid is an attorney out of Birmingham who owns his own general practice law firm, which handles Business, Family, and Probate Law and high-end litigation throughout the state of Alabama. Reid has held various policy positions, including working for the Alabama Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., where he also worked for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt. In law school, he clerked for the Alabama Attorney General Office, and, after graduation, he became Health and Judiciary Policy Analyst for Alabama’s governor. His charitable work includes serving on the board of Sav-A-Life. Chris is a frequent co-host on The Scott Beason Show in Birmingham, writes political and legal commentary for publications including The Hill, The Washington Examiner, and has been quoted in The New Yorker. He regularly provides on-air expertise and political commentary for TV news shows on Fox, NBC, and Newsmax with JD Hayworth. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Last month, in a banner speech, President Trump declared the national opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
opioid, crisis, trump, health
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 03:00 PM
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