Trump declares opioid crisis a 'national emergency'

BEDMINSTER, New Jersey (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” and pledged to ramp up government efforts to combat the epidemic.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, 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 during a brief question-and-answer session ahead of a security briefing Thursday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

He said he’d be drawing up documents to formalize the declaration soon.

Editorial: How many more victims will the heroin epidemic claim?

A drug commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing crisis. An initial report from the commission noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

Trump received a briefing on the report earlier this week during his 17-day working vacation in New Jersey.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price seemed to suggest after that briefing that the president was leaning against the recommendation, arguing that the administration could deploy the necessary resources and attention to deal with the crisis without declaring a national emergency.

Still, Price stressed that “all things” were “on the table for the president.”

Trump said Thursday that the nation’s addiction to opioids is “a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio both applauded the news.

Brown said he hoped the Trump administration would "follow-up with meaningful action and investment."

"Communities across Ohio don’t need a declaration to tell them the opioid crisis is an emergency. While this is an important step, combating the opioid epidemic requires more than words -- it requires meaningful action and investment," Brown said in a written statement.

Portman and Brown have sponsored legislation which would lift the cap for the number of beds covered by Medicaid at residential addiction treatment facilities. 

"We must continue to fully fund important programs on prevention, treatment, and recovery, and we must take additional legislative action to help stop overprescribing, increase the number of treatment beds covered by Medicaid at residential treatment facilities, and help stop the flow of synthetic opioids that are shipped into this country through the postal service," Portman said in a written statement.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also applauded the decision to declare the opioid crisis as a national emergency.

"Additional resources from the federal government will help hard-hit states like Ohio," he said in a written statement.

Colvin reported from Washington.

Click here to read WCPO's comprehensive coverage of heroin's hold on the Tri-State. 

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