President Trump assured critics that he would officially declare the opioid crisis to be a national emergency next week, which was apparently news to his own officials. "They are not ready for this," one public health advocate told Politico after discussing Trump's promise with Health and Human Services officials. A senior Food and Drug Administration official agreed, calling it "such a mess."
Opioids are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. STAT estimated earlier this year that opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade. But "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," Politico writes.
Part of the disagreement boils down to how to declare the emergency: The Stafford Act, which is normally used for natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, could open up federal dollars for the opioid crisis but might not be legally sound. Trump could instead declare a more narrowly focused public health emergency, but that would rely on the mere $57,000 in available money from HHS. Trump could also look to Congress, but that approach still hasn't been finalized.
“The reaction [to Trump's promise] was universal," one senior health official told Politico. "Believe it when [we] see it." Read more about why if the opioid crisis isn't a national emergency, nothing is, at The Week.