WASHINGTON- President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday, stopping short of a national emergency declaration he promised months ago that would have freed up more federal money.
Responding to a growing problem, particularly in rural areas, Trump’s declaration will redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat opioid abuse, senior administration officials said.
But it does not result in more money to combat the crisis. Some critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said the declaration was meaningless without additional funding.
Republican lawmakers called the president’s declaration an important step in combating the crisis.
“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” Trump, a Republican, said at the White House. “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue.”
Trump, who also called the epidemic a “national shame” and “human tragedy,” was introduced by his wife, Melania, who said she had made fighting the epidemic one of her top priorities as first lady. “This can happen to any of us,” she said.
The announcement disappointed some advocates and experts in the addiction fight, who said it was inadequate to fight a scourge that played a role in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate has kept rising, estimates show.
Opioids, primarily prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, are fueling the drug overdoses. More than 100 Americans die daily from related overdoses, according to the CDC.