Confusion abounds in the White House over President Donald Trump’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national emergency.
The president allegedly surprised administration officials and advisers Monday when he said the White House would formalize an emergency declaration on the addiction crisis “in the next week.” Officials were caught off guard by the promise, saying they are not aware of any internal plans on when Trump will make the formal announcement or how it will be implemented, reports Politico.
The White House has previously noted that a national emergency declaration, through the Stafford Act, is historically reserved for natural disasters, meaning the process is a lot more complex when it is applied to the opioid crisis. Unnamed officials within the administration told Politico that there are major disagreements internally over the potential legal problems the administration may face during implementation and the billion dollar cost associated with the declaration.
“Everyone wants opioids to be a priority, but there’s a lot of resistance to calling it an emergency,” an unnamed senior administration official told Politico.
Aides are reportedly at odds over whether the the Stafford Act, which allows the government to bypass regulations to approve federal funds, can be applied to a situation like the opioid epidemic.
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chided Trump Oct. 11 for failing to enact a formal emergency declaration after promising one in early August.
Trump created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis through an executive order March 29 and tapped Christie to lead the efforts. In an interim report given to Trump July 31, the commission implored Trump to immediately declare the crisis a national emergency in order to open up greater access to federal resources for states ravaged by drug abuse.
The confusion in the White House is exacerbated by vacancies in key administration positions. Tom Price recently resigned as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Rep. Tom Marino withdrew his nomination to direct Trump’s Office of National Drug Control Policy Tuesday after his previous lobbying work for the pharmaceutical industry was exposed.
Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts that the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.
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