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The Opioid Crisis As 'National Emergency'

Seized prescription drugs displayed in a glass flask in the controlled substance room of the Utah state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
Seized prescription drugs displayed in a glass flask in the controlled substance room of the Utah state crime lab in Taylorsville, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The opioid crisis is described now as a “national emergency” by the president. Will this open the floodgates for more funding, more help?

Last week, the president said he’s declaring a national emergency of opioid abuse. What might that mean? The details are still to come, but the country is watching. 60,000 drug-related deaths predicted for the latest year. That’s a 9/11 every three weeks, says Chris Christie, chairman of the president’s commission on opioid abuse. So, if there’s an emergency level response, where will that focus? On treatment? On police? On a wall? This hour On Point: the presidents “national emergency” on opioids. — Tom Ashbrook


Lenny Bernstein, health and medicine reporter for the Washington Post. ( @LennyMBernstein)

Bertha Madras, member of President Trump’s five-person Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Psychobiologist at McLean Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services for Montgomery County, Ohio.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Trump says opioid crisis is a national emergency, pledges more money and attention — “President Trump on Thursday declared the country’s opioid crisis a national emergency, saying the epidemic exceeded anything he had seen with other drugs in his lifetime. The statement by the president came in response to a question as he spoke to reporters outside a national security briefing at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is on a working vacation.”

Financial Times: Drug industry faces ‘tidal wave’ of litigation over opioid crisis — “Companies that make or distribute opioid painkillers are facing a “tidal wave” of litigation as US officials seek to raise funds to fight the country’s addiction epidemic and punish those they accuse of fuelling the crisis. The number of government officials launching legal action against drugmakers and wholesalers has soared in the past year in what some lawyers see as a harbinger of a settlement that could echo the more than $200bn extracted from the tobacco industry in 1998.”

NPR: What Could Happen If Trump Formally Declares Opioids A National Emergency — “The president could ask HHS Secretary Price to declare an emergency under the Public Health Service Act. Unlike FEMA, HHS doesn’t have a standing emergency fund (although during last year’s Zika virus scare, many people urged that one be established), but money could be freed up. Right now, public health workers and researchers are working on projects defined by grants from HHS. If Price were to declare an emergency, those workers could be redeployed temporarily, from working on AIDS outreach for example, to work on substance abuse issues.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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