BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP/WAVY) — 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.
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.”
Officials in Virginia declared a health emergency for opioid addiction in the Commonwealth in November of 2016. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) announced that Virginia would be receiving more than $9 million from the Department of Health to battle the epidemic.
The Commonwealth saw a significant rise in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, with at least 1,420 overdose deaths in 2016 alone. A state report found a 175 percent increase in deaths from varieties of fentanyl.
According to StatePublicHealth.org — a national nonprofit for public health agencies — six states in US have issued emergency declarations in response to the opioid epidemic — Arizona, Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions commended Trump for “taking this drastic and necessary measure to confront an opioid crisis that is devastating communities around the country and ripping families apart.”
Christie applauded Trump’s decision in a statement, saying the president “deserves great credit.”
“As I have said before, I am completely confident that the President will address this problem aggressively and do all he can to alleviate the suffering and loss of scores of families in every corner of our country,” he said.
Trump said Thursday that the nation’s addiction to opioids is “a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”
More coverage of the Opioid Epidemic:
- Virginia board creates new opioid prescription guidelines
- AG Herring: Anyone can die from opioid abuse
- Herring talks about fight against opioids in Norfolk
- AG Herring leads screening, panel on heroin epidemic
Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire reported for the Associated Press.
WAVY.com contributed to this post.