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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

President Trump Calls Opioid Crisis a ‘National Emergency’

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Last week, President Trump called the opioid addiction crisis a “national emergency.” While this is an important step towards fulfilling the White House Opioid Commission’s primary recommendation, no official declaration of emergency has yet been made. An official declaration would give the federal government additional authority to quickly free up funds to respond to the epidemic.

Among the immediate actions the Trump administration could take to address the opioid crisis:

  • Send money quickly to states: By declaring an emergency, President Trump could access funds reserved for federal emergencies or disasters such as the $1.4 billion Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance fund or some of the $45 million dedicated to the Public Health Emergency Fund. Another option is for the President to ask Congress to approve an emergency spending package, similar to what was requested by President Obama to address the Zika outbreak.
  • Increase Medicaid payments for addiction treatment: The federal government could approve state waiver requests to remove the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits the use of federal Medicaid funds for services provided in inpatient substance use disorder facilities that are larger than 16 beds. The policy has resulted in a limited addiction treatment system capacity. Many states currently have requests pending with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to lift this restriction.
  • Negotiate lower prices for naloxone: HHS Secretary Tom Price could use administrative tools to increase access to naloxone ­- the drug that reverses opioid overdoses. Price could buy naloxone at a discounted price through the Public Health Service Act’s Strategic National Stockpile and then provide the drug free to states. Price could also negotiate lower prices for naloxone under Medicare Part B.
  • Add funds for law enforcement: President Trump could provide the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department with more resources to increase drug-related federal prosecutions and strengthen efforts to stop the trafficking of drugs across the southern border. Last week, President Trump signaled that the administration would prioritize combating the opioid epidemic by focusing on law enforcement.


Until the emergency declaration is made, advocates must push for the opioid emergency to be made official and for the declaration to be accompanied by meaningful attention and investment. To urge President Trump to make his statement an official federal declaration, join the National Council in supporting this letter by Facing Addiction. Click here to sign your name.