WASHINGTON — Eleven U.S. senators, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, are urging President Donald Trump to extend his public health emergency declaration on the opioid epidemic, adding more action needs to be taken in ensuring resources are available in response and treatment efforts.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December more than 42,000 Americans died in 2016 of opioid-related overdoses. West Virginia has the highest rate in the country with 52 deaths per 100,000 people, which is equivalent to 884 deaths.
In a letter sent Friday to Trump, the senators said they have not seen enough action since Trump’s Oct. 26 declaration at the White House.
“Federal funding supports efforts to help stop the epidemic at every level,’ the letter said. “It is needed to prevent addiction, provide treatment to those with substance use disorders, fund overdose reversal treatments and harm mitigation efforts, strengthen law enforcement, and support efforts to care for the many children who are the unwitting victims of this disease.”
Trump’s proclamation expires on Jan. 23, 90 days since he spoke about the matter.
“We are going to overcome addiction in America,” Trump said at the time. “We have fought and won many battles and many wars before, and we will win again.”
Trump has not announced any additional programs since that address, and no additional resources have been set aside in connection with the order.
The Department of Health and Human Services secretary is able to access funds from the Public Health Emergency Fund under the declaration, yet the fund has a balance of $57,000.
“Too many in our communities are losing their lives, families, and futures to opioids and we need to be doing everything humanly possible to help them,” the senators wrote.
The senators also told Trump they want to work with the president to push for substantial funding, which would be part of an upcoming budget deal. Congress has until Jan. 19 to pass a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown.
In addition to Manchin, the letter was signed by independent Angus King of Maine and fellow Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.