WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a public health emergency over opioid abuse, which was blamed for 64,000 deaths in the United States last year.
At a White House ceremony, Trump called the drug crisis the worst “in ... world history” and declared it to be a public health emergency, which allows him to allocate more funds at the state and federal level to the fight against addiction to prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, which are just behind heroin as the top addictive opioids for Americans.
“That is why, effective today, my administration is officially declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law and why I’m directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate authority to fight the opioid crisis.” the president said.
Trump on Wednesday signed a presidential memo in which he ordered Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan to declare a public health emergency and asking all government agencies to prioritize the fight against opioids.
“Nobody is safe from this epidemic that threatens all – young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural communities. Everybody is threatened. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States,” he said, adding that the US is by far the world’s major consumer of these drugs.
According to figures cited by the president, stemming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64,000 people died last year from opioid overdoses (including heroin) in the US, or 175 deaths per day.
Trump acknowledged that the problem of demand for drugs in the US must be dealt with, but he said that there is no other option than to work with other countries, including China and Latin American nations, to confront the drug problem where the substances originate.
He said that 90 percent of the heroin that arrives in the US comes across the border with Mexico, where he has promised to build a wall to stem that tide along with illegal immigration.
During the White House event, Trump was accompanied by his wife Melania, as well as by parents who have lost children to drug addiction and members of the security forces fighting drug trafficking.
The public health emergency declaration will last for 90 days but it can be extended indefinitely.