President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Emergency - American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

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President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Emergency

Earlier in August, President Donald Trump unofficially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in a public announcement. This follows the recent release of the White House Opioid Commission's Interim Report, which discusses strategies for addressing the nation's opioid epidemic.

The Commission, led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, submitted the report to the President making the recommendation to declare a national emergency, among other recommendations for action. The Commission stated several reasons why the declaration would empower the President and his cabinet to use every tool at their disposal to prevent any further deaths and "take bold steps to deal with this loss of life."

What remains unknown is the impact of the President’s declaration. Several states have already declared an opioid disaster or emergency, but the details of how the declaration will unfold is crucial. The President may declare an emergency under the Public Health Service Act, or the Stafford Act, but whether a designation of federal disaster funds or new congressional appropriations will be made is still unclear.

The White House Opioid Commission raised the possibility that the national emergency could enable the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose; reduced prices for all governmental units could make it possible for the lifesaving drug to be the hands of every law enforcement officer in the United States. A national emergency could also rapidly increase treatment capacity. Specifically, it might accelerate HHS waivers to remove the "IMD exclusion," also known as the federal Institutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion within the Medicaid program. This provision in federal law prohibits Medicaid funds from reimbursing services at inpatient mental health facilities that have more than 16 beds, making states entirely responsible for Medicaid-eligible patients in inpatient treatment facilities. The declaration could also help release funds from the Public Health Emergency Fund; although, these funds are quite limited.

After the President’s statement, media reports declared this national emergency would make 29 active national emergencies, according to an analysis of the Congressional Research Service, the Federal Register and the White House.

Learn more about the White House Opioid Commission.

Highlights from the Opioid Commission's Interim Report.
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