President Donald Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the national opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday during remarks at the White House.
Earlier this year, the president's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) recommended in its interim report that Trump "Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act" to combat the crisis.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump chose to declare a public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act.
In a statement, Christie said, "I commend the President on the bold action he is taking today."
Christie said that Trump "is showing an unprecedented commitment to fighting this epidemic and placing the weight of the Presidency behind saving lives across the country."
What will Trump’s order do?
NPR reported that critics say the move will not direct funding for addiction treatment in and of itself, but proponents say that the order will allow some grant money to be redistributed toward combating opioid abuse and will raise awareness of the issue.
Administration officials told the Washington Post that Trump's order will ease regulations on telemedicine addiction treatment, allowing doctors to prescribe medicine to patients without an in-person visit, expanding access to treatment in rural areas. They also said the order will permit the Department of Labor to make Dislocated Worker Grants — typically given to people out of work due to a natural disaster — available to people undergoing treatment for opioid addiction.
What did Trump say?
In his remarks, Trump called the epidemic "the worst drug crisis in American history."
"Addressing it will require all of our effort," Trump said, calling the opioid crisis a "plague."
Trump said his administration will pursue research toward non-addictive pain management drugs and a public service campaign for children about the dangers of substance abuse so they "get to people before they start" taking drugs.
"There is nothing desirable about drugs," Trump said. "They're bad."
The president said watching his late brother Fred struggle with alcoholism made him want to work toward preventing addiction.
"Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality, much better than mine," Trump quipped. "But he had a problem with alcohol."
Trump said his brother used to tell him never to smoke or drink, and he took the advice because his brother had a "tough life" as a result of his addiction.
“We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," he said. "We can do it.”
Trump said that he will take "aggressive" steps after his commission on opioid addiction issues its final report. He argued his proposed border wall will "have a great impact" on the opiod crisis because many drugs come from "south of the border."
How long will the public health emergency last?
The order lasts 90 days and can be renewed at the White House's discretion.