Trump reverses course, declares the opioid crisis a national emergency

(Photo by NASA)

While North Korea has dominated the headlines, President Donald Trump took steps today to recognize a major problem at home. Today, Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, saying it’s worse than any drug the country has ever seen.

“It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters at a news conference today. “It is a serious problem, the likes of which we’ve never had. You know, when I was growing up, they had the LSD, and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years.”

Trump drew criticism last week for declining to issue a disaster declaration, as was recommended by a commission he organized on the issue. The Post reports the national declaration would give states greater flexibility in responding to the crisis by waiving some federal rules, including one that restricts where Medicaid recipients get addiction treatment.

Alaska’s leadership has been fairly unified in treating the opioid crisis as an emergency. It’s been a key issue for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who held a summit with federal officials in Alaska Last year.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker declared the opioid epidemic a state disaster akin to an earthquake or flood in February, activating a disaster response team. The move also allowed wider distribution of anti-overdose drug naloxone. The move was followed by the passage of a handful of bills this year that gave the state more tools to deal with opioid addiction.

It took the Legislature until June 22 to pass House Bill 159, and the bill was signed in late July at a homelessness center in Wasilla (no Mat-Su Valley legislators could be bothered to attend the event). At the event, Walker said 70 people had already died this year in cases related to painkiller abuse.

Walker and others have also stressed the importance of Medicaid expansion and other Medicaid spending in providing addiction treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. The U.S. Senate considered adding additional addiction treatment to its Obamacare repeal, though skeptics said it wouldn’t have been enough.

“Coverage of behavioral health services for Alaska’s Medicaid expansion population is critical to our behavioral health reform and criminal justice reform efforts. It also provides necessary treatment resources to address the opioid epidemic in Alaska,” Walker said in a statement about the House-authored Obamacare repeal in March.

However, Trump spent much of today’s news conference bashing the Senate’s failure to pass a repeal of Obamacare, which Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had a role in stopping. He attacked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter, saying the Senate should still be working on a repeal.

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