With the opioid crisis intensifying and dozens of Americans dying of drug overdoses each day, President Trump plans to hold “a major briefing” on the issue with top administration officials at his private golf club on Tuesday afternoon.
A White House spokesman described the briefing as simply “an update on the opioid crisis” and said that the president is still reviewing a preliminary report from a commission on the crisis that urgently recommended more than a week ago that he declare a national emergency.
During his campaign, the president promised he would swiftly end the crisis by building a wall along the southern U.S. border to stop the flow of heroin into the country, boosting funding for recovery programs and approaching the problem with a humanitarian mind-set instead of a law-and-order one. In November’s election, Trump overperformed the most in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates, according to a Pennsylvania State University study.
Now, more than 200 days into his presidency, activists say the president has done little to help.
Republicans in Congress have proposed cutting Medicaid in ways that health-care advocates say would reduce access to drug treatment for many, and the president’s budget proposal calls for reducing funding for addiction treatment, research and prevention efforts. Several Republican lawmakers who did not vote for their party’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this summer said that the legislation would make it more difficult for their states to combat the heroin epidemic.
In March, Trump established the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). The group was charged with studying “ways to combat and treat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction, and the opioid crisis.”
Last week, the commission issued a preliminary report that described the overdose death toll as “September 11th every three weeks” and urged the president to immediately “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.”
Doing so would allow the administration to remove some barriers and waive some federal rules, such as one that restricts where Medicaid recipients can receive addiction treatment. It would also put pressure on Congress to provide more funding. But some advocates worry that such a declaration would also expand the powers of the president and attorney general in a way that could allow abuse of law enforcement authority.
Christie said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he has received a “really good response from the White House” on the recommendations.
“We urge the president to take these steps,” Christie said. “He’s taking this commission seriously, as we are. And we make some very aggressive recommendations. And I’m confident he will adopt them.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Jenna Johnson