Opioid emergency declaration finally on the way?

Oct 23 2017

Opioid emergency declaration finally on the way?

In an unexpected turn of events, President Trump made an offhand remark about a major executive action that surprised his staff, sending them reeling to try to keep up with his impulsive promises. Oh, and the remark was regarding a campaign promise he has yet to keep.

Wait, you’re not shocked? Maybe that’s because such disorder has basically become routine at this point.

The latest bumbling policy rollout has to do with the opioid epidemic, something Trump talked about extensively on the campaign trail, but has yet to take any real action on.

Last Monday, Trump haphazardly mentioned that he would be declaring a state of emergency in regards to the opioid epidemic this week, saying, “That is a very, very big statement. It’s a very important step…We’re going to be doing it in the next week.”

While Trump’s opioid commission had formally recommended the action months ago, Trump has failed to follow up on their proposals. It was assumed the declaration would come eventually (although nothing should be assumed with this administration), but apparently Trump’s announcement that it would be happening so soon came as a complete surprise to those in charge of actually implementing the plan.

Politico, the accomplished insider political news agency, had the scoop this week that staffers were left scrambling by Trump’s impromptu proclamation. According to Politico, “Trump’s off-script statement stunned top agency officials, who said there is no consensus on how to implement an emergency declaration for the drug epidemic, according to interviews with officials from the White House, a half dozen federal agencies, state health directors and lobbyists.”

Politico further articulated the chaos, reporting, “Blindsided officials are now scrambling to develop such a plan, but it is unclear when it will be announced, how or if it will be done, and whether the administration has the permanent leadership to execute it, said two administration officials.”

While such disorder shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying any amount of attention to this administration, the real question remains as to what an emergency declaration would actually mean for those fighting on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

According to some experts, an emergency declaration could allow the government to tap into FEMA funding to aid service providers. But after recent hurricanes, those funds have been depleted, and using money for purposes other than hurricane relief may be unpopular given the abysmal situation in Puerto Rico.

A declaration could also allow the Health and Human Services administration to tap into reserve funding and lift some regulations that could make it cheaper for organizations to purchase narcan and other lifesaving drugs.

While any increase in funding would be beneficial for treatment providers, Politico’s story has made it abundantly clear that there’s no way to tell how the declaration will be implemented. Perhaps Trump will find yet other ways to bring relief, but we will simply have to wait and see.

However much money or other resources comes out of the emergency declaration (if it ever happens), it’s clear it probably won’t be enough to stop the epidemic in its tracks. It will take a prolonged and concerted effort on the part of local, state, and federal governmental agencies working in cooperation with local service providers to effect real change. As we wait for Trump’s administration to extend more resources, it will be up to the people on the ground to continue their fight as best they can.