HHS Secretary: National Health Emergency Declaration Not Necessary to Treat Opioid Epidemic

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Although he established the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie leading it, he has yet to follow the commission's recommendation that he declare the crisis a national emergency, The Washington Post notes.

Later in the day, when asked by reporters why Trump was not yet declaring a national emergency as his commission recommended, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the president was certainly taking the issue seriously.

A commission appointed by President Trump described the death toll from overdoses as "September 11th every three weeks".

"The resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the President", Mr Price later told a news briefing.

"So far, Attorney General Sessions' escalation of the war on drugs and President Trump's attempts to take away health care and treatment from millions of people is extremely worrisome", said Smith. Overdoses kill more people than gun homicides and vehicle crashes combined, the commission reported.

"The lack of funding for essential treatment and recovery services is a persistent barrier to effectively addressing the opioid crisis", reads the letter, which was signed by nine other Democrats.

In May, Price visited Charleston to talk about the opioid epidemic with policymakers from both the state and federal levels along with representatives from several organizations.

Presidents have declared national emergencies dozens of times, but mostly for threats contained within a specific time and place.

Last week, Christie said he hadn't had the chance to talk directly to Trump about his commission's report, saying the president was "a little busy" with the White House turmoil of a new chief of staff and fired communications director.

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Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have some of the nation's highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths due to heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and abuse of prescription opioids such as oxycodone.

"Until Trump takes real action and abandons his attempts to reduce health care access to these communities, anything he does is nothing but more empty rhetoric and another broken promise", the statement concludes.

The essential problem with Trump's approach, Piper added, is that it "makes it look like they are doing something even when they are not". Although the declaration could provide additional federal resources, it could also be used to ramp up a punitive response, they said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015, the latest year for which data is available, and estimates show the death rate has continued rising.

"We recognize that we are making progress here in New Mexico, but we also recognize that there is just so much more work to be done", he said.

He heralded Price as the person to lead his effort to tackle the issue, and said that no one is safe from opioid addiction.

"Our citizens are dying", the report stated. "We are going to solve that problem", Trump told the crowd.

With the emergency declaration, Christ says the state has been able to train law enforcement on the use of naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses, and develop opioid prescribing guidelines.