President Donald Trump is declaring opioid addiction in the United States a national emergency, he told reporters on Thursday. As Pacific Standard previously reported, such a declaration could do a few things:
- Help more low-income Americans get anti-addiction and overdose-reversing medicines covered by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
- Loosen privacy laws, so that the government can collect nationwide overdose data faster.
- Open up certain national emergency funds—but these funds aren't very large.
Trump's announcement comes 10 days after a commission he created advised him that proclaiming a national emergency was the "most important single" action the White House could take on opioid addiction in America. Just two days ago, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said a national emergency declaration wasn't necessary to tackle the opioid epidemic, "although all things are on the table for the president." Depending on what law Trump wants to use for this emergency, Price may have to make the official declaration, not Trump.
So long as officials go in with clear goals, opening a national emergency could be a good strategy, University of Michigan law and health-policy researcher Rebecca Haffajee told Pacific Standard last week. "I think it's probably appropriate," she said, pointing to skyrocketing overdose rates and America's increasingly dangerous drug supply. "I think the important thing when declaring them is to be thinking about, 'What are we trying to achieve using this declaration and these funds?' and 'When will we be satisfied that the emergency is over?'"