Back in August, a special committee assembled by the Trump Administration and headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recommended declaring the United States opioid epidemic a national emergency; two months later, it appears as though the administration is doing some version of this. The administration announced yesterday that it will be declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency which can allocate considerable resources toward treatment, prevention and other aspects of the problem. The President will also direct agency and department heads to use all appropriate emergency authorities in hopes of reducing opioid-related fatalities.
The move comes at a time in which drug overdose fatalities are at a record, and have been climbing consistently since 2014. Last year, there were over 64,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Opioids are the primary driver these consistent deadly upticks, specifically fentanyl which saw a 540 percent jump from 2015 to 2016. Opioids were linked to over 49,000 of the approximately 64,000 overall drug fatalities in the US last year. The escalation has confounded law enforcement, prevention advocates and treatment professionals, alike for the last decade, as more and more Americans fall victim to this devastating illness.
As proactive a measure as the Administration’s declaration may seem, it’s a step back from his aim to declare the opioid a national emergency, which he said he’d do in August and then later again this week. Many critics of the administration’s plan say it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough to combat substance abuse and addiction. Whatever action the federal government takes to combat the opioid crisis, it’s important to also acknowledge the roles of communities and individuals in spreading awareness and educating themselves about the dangers of these drugs and just how prevalent they are in society.