Trump to declare ‘national emergency’ on opioid crisis

Following up on recommendations by his own White House commission, President Donald Trump said he will declare a national public health emergency on the opioid addiction epidemic, which would have an impact on healthcare providers.

“I'm saying officially right now, it is an emergency. It is a national emergency,” Trump said at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., according to a White House press pool report. "We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.”

Just two days earlier, HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, told reporters a declaration was “on the table,” but may not be necessary, saying the administration has the authority available to address the crisis without any formal emergency declaration. In a statement after the announcement, Price said the declaration illustrates Trump’s “clear commitment to combating this epidemic.”

"President Trump is taking strong, decisive action in directing the Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic,” Price said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates our sense of urgency to fight the scourge of addiction that is affecting all corners of this country.”

Since 1999, deaths related to opioid abuse have quadrupled, with drug overdose deaths rising to 142 per day. The interim report from the White House opioid commission put much of the blame on doctors, saying four out of every five users of heroin had begun their addiction with abusing prescription opioids. While laws surrounding opioid prescriptions have already begun to tighten and medical associations have made opioid issues a priority at conferences this year, the commission recommended additional steps, including mandated training for registered prescribers, new training standards for graduate medical education and requiring interstate information sharing between state-run prescription drug monitoring programs.

Some of the policy recommendations would require congressional action, such as changing addiction-specific provisions of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This would allow providers easier access to patient information about substance abuse disorders, a step Price said on Aug. 8 is supported by the administration.

“It’s devastating for anybody to learn of a family who is not able to be notified that one of their loved ones has had a problem with addiction because of privacy laws,” Price said. “So we’re looking through the regulatory process to determine what can be done, if anything, to make it so that those requirements are not—those privacy requirements are not as onerous in the case of an overdose. And it certainly is something that Congress could address, and we’ll talking with them and have had conversations with many of them about that.”