Presidential Commission Suggests Declaring National Emergency to Deal with Opioid Epidemic

3 August 2017
NATIONAL EMERGENCY red Rubber Stamp over a white background.

This Monday a commission led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the request of President Trump delivered a report outlining the scope of opioid addiction in the United States and possible solutions to dealing with this public health issue. Among the most eye-catching suggestions is the proposed declaration of a national emergency to grant the president more powers to effectively combat opioid abuse and addiction. The commission suggests that the body count associated with opioid overdose (142 per day on average and more than 560,000 people over the past 16 years), warrants drastic, swift and decisive action. The recommendation comes after months of continuous examination, the findings or which were held up by multiple delays.

What, then, are the tangible advantages of declaring a national emergency and how can it solve the opioid epidemic? Governor Christie claims that taking such action, which he proposes be undertaken through either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act, would empower the President’s cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch and that it would send much-needed alarm and awareness through the United States and acknowledge the pervasive public health implications of this problem. Many experts agree that declaring a national emergency would drop the price of Narcan and even increase access to treatment.

In addition to declaring a national emergency, the commission suggests increasing Medicaid funds to open up care access; mandating education on prevention efforts; using big-data analytics to come up with a national combat strategy; establishing a national incentive for medication-assisted treatment; strengthen monitoring databases and so much more. It would appear that the report is a positive step toward adequately combating opioid addiction; however, it is yet to be seen if any of the provisions or solutions contained therein will have political backing or monetary support.