The Opioid Crisis and a Public Health Emergency

 

In a recent policy change, President Trump and his administration declared the opioid crisis in the United States a public health emergency. This may seem like a major decision, but according to a study by Addictions.com , many individuals—both in government and medicine—state that the declaration is not enough to actually fight the opioid epidemic. Instead, many people are calling for the Trump administration to declare a state of emergency, as this will potentially create a more positive, long-term change.

The president can declare a public health emergency through the Public Health Services Act. This declaration states that there is a serious disorder threatening the health of the American people that must be addressed quickly. The government may do a number of things during a public health emergency, including release extra resources to help those affected by the problem. However, a public health emergency only lasts for 90 days, though the President can reinstate it after it expires.

Compared to a public health emergency, a state of emergency is much more serious and can create a much wider change. A state of emergency is declared through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, and it can include any serious situation that threatens American lives. In addition, it also implies that current laws and resources will not be enough to solve the problem, whatever it may be. A state of emergency also lasts a year before it expires, and it allows the president to ask for federal assistance from several different federal departments, something many states that are experiencing severe issues with the opioid crisis sorely need.

Sadly, the current administration has only chosen to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which, to many, does not seem large enough to include the scope of the issue, let alone to actually do anything to solve it. A state of emergency could help so many people in many ways, from increasing the access to naloxone, especially in rural areas, to creating more support for medication maintenance treatment, to even removing some of the stigma people with substance use disorders face every day. A state of emergency could go a long way toward solving the opioid crisis while a public health emergency is, in many ways, similar to offering lip service in the face of an epidemic this large.

Still, this declaration is helping to remind more people of the problem at hand and is even bringing more individuals into the loop who weren’t before. The opioid crisis is causing many problems for our country and has even lowered our national life expectancy for the first time in many years. In this sense, every little bit helps if it is providing the cities, states, and families ravaged by opioid addiction a little more aid and understanding. We have to work together on every level in order to make real change occur, and this means both helping loved ones seek treatment and being willing to lend a hand to people we don’t even know.

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