BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump said Thursday he will declare the opioid addiction crisis a “national emergency,” two days after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said such action was not necessary.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump said at Trump National Golf Club.
The president said he will be drawing up official documentation to formalize the order.
“It is a serious problem the likes of which we never had,” he said, adding the issue is a “worldwide problem.”
Trump took part in a briefing Monday during his 17-day “working vacation” with attendees including Price and First Lady Melania Trump. The president did not offer any policy solutions during that meeting, instead saying he would work with health care and law enforcement professionals on addressing the matter.
Price said after the briefing the necessary actions could be taken place without a national emergency being declared.
The president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis suggested in its July 31 draft interim report declaring a nation emergency.
“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the report said. “After September 11th, our President and our nation banded together to use every tool at our disposal to prevent any further American deaths. Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”
The commission recommended several actions in its brief, including increasing treatment capacity, supporting states in monitoring prescription drug data and mandating prescriber education.
The commission was established on March 29 through executive order. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie serves as its chair. He was also involved in the Trump presidential campaign after dropping out of the race for the Republican nomination.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who announced last week at a Trump rally in Huntington he would be rejoining the Republican Party, said he supported the president’s efforts.
“I have been saying all along that we have an emergency in West Virginia with opioid and drug addiction,” he said in a statement. “This devastating scourge is taking the lives of hundreds of our citizens every year.”
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said on Twitter he was ready for partnerships on how to address opioid addiction to begin.
Williams told MetroNews Wednesday he was “perplexed” about Trump’s response earlier this week, and told U.S. News & World Report the president missed an opportunity to address the topic while he was in Huntington.
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, applauded Trump’s statement.
“Pleased to see @realDonaldTrump @POTUS declare a state of emergency for opioids,” Manchin tweeted. “This epidemic is devastating #WV & this is a positive step.”
“The president took another important step today by announcing he will declare this epidemic a national emergency, and I appreciate his commitment to making this fight a national priority,” Capito said in a statement. “This declaration will help provide communities in West Virginia and throughout the country more resources to tackle this terrible epidemic and ultimately save lives.”
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said he was “pleased” with Trump’s comments and looked forward to working with him on the issue.
“The opioid epidemic is a national emergency,” McKinley posted on Facebook.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said opioid addiction was an issue he talked to Trump about when the president visited the state for the 2017 Boy Scout National Jamboree.
“I welcome the news of a declaration of emergency on this issue,” he said. “We have known its been an emergency for years. We, tragically, have been ground zero.”
Trump’s announcement comes after Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s largest drug distributors, told a federal judge more than 1,900 organizations, businesses or medical professionals that could be at fault for channeling opioids for misuse.
One of those Cardinal Health is pointing blame at is Lily’s Place, a Huntington nonprofit that focuses on treating babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects babies who were exposed to drugs while in the womb.
Lily’s Place was the nation’s first NAS center and is licensed to dispense controlled substances.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Wednesday while the city of Huntington is suing Cardinal Health and others for adding to the city’s heroin problems, the drug distributor mentioned Lily’s Place as a location that could be “wholly or partially” at fault for the misuse of opioids.
Jenkins, who helped in the creation of Lily’s Place, called Cardinal Health’s claim “an outrage.”
“The idea that helping wean these newborn infants through the ravages of withdrawal — a medically managed, best practice, recognized across the country — to have Cardinal Health pointing a finger is simply outrageous,” Jenkins said.
Manchin said he was “shocked and appalled” by Cardinal Health’s inclusion of Lily’s Place.
“Cardinal Health’s claim is an attempt by a large corporation to deflect their responsibility onto the very people who work selflessly to stop the problem they helped cause,” Manchin said in a release. “These accusations not only show Cardinal Health’s callousness, but also their unwillingness to assist in stopping the epidemic that continues to plague West Virginia.”
Cardinal Health’s lawsuit also mentions hospitals, federal agencies and convicted drug dealers.