Trump calls for stronger enforcement to address opioid crisis

Trump calls for stronger enforcement to address opioid crisis

The Trump administration declined to declare a national state of emergency to fight the opioid epidemic Tuesday afternoon at a much-anticipated press briefing in Bedminster, New Jersey-despite that step being the "first and most urgent recommendation" of the president's own commission.

Last week, the presidential opioid commission, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, urged Trump to "declare a national emergency" and noted that "America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks".

"We believe at this point the resources that we need or the focus we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency", Price said, although he added that "all things are on the table for this president".

Price himself could also declare a public health emergency. The overdose death toll in 2016 is believed to have topped 59,000, more than peak deaths from vehicle crash deaths, HIV or firearms.

The opioid abuse crisis, on the other hand, has slowly emerged over decades and affects regions around virtually the entire country.

A series of studies, however, have found one of the key variables in opioid addiction is a doctor's prescription, with many overdose deaths stemming from prescription opioid medications.

While stopping short of calling the "deadly epidemic" a national emergency, the President has promised to "protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities". The Trump administration has no plan to fight the epidemic, and on Tuesday they didn't even pretend to have one.

The opioid commission's preliminary report didn't mention law enforcement in its recommendations, though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has regularly argued that aggressive action from police and prosecutors will help curb problems of drug abuse and addiction.




After the meeting, Price discussed his strategy to beat the epidemic by coordinating with the entire Trump administration. The president reflected, for example, on preventing addiction by stopping the problem before it starts. "If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off", Trump told reporters.

In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 52,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs.

But she said that more must be done in the area of recovery assistance. There's a reason for that - the commission's top recommendation for combating opioid abuse was to expand Medicaid, but Trump has very publicly supported health care legislation that would dramatically slash funding for the program.

The group also asked Trump to "rapidly increase treatment capacity" for Americans addicted to opioids by granting waivers to all 50 states, allowing them to cover mental health treatment under Medicaid. David Morgan, Southwest public information officer for the state Health Department, said that number has improved, but New Mexico still ranks eighth in the nation.

Politicians, law enforcement and health care officials across the country are struggling to confront the surging crisis of addiction and death associated with opioids - painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin as well as synthetic drugs imported from China like fentanyl.

"We're going to have a tremendous team of experts and people that want to beat this disgusting situation that has happened in our country - and we will", Trump told reporters.

Emergency declaration or not, it appears that Trump continues weighing enforcement-focused initiatives, including those advocated by Sessions.

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