Trump to declare opioids ‘Public Health Emergency’ - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Trump to declare opioids ‘Public Health Emergency’

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Pres. Donald Trump. AP photo Pres. Donald Trump. AP photo

President Donald Trump will declare the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency on Thursday, according to senior White House officials, the next step in targeting the drug crisis in America but one that differs from the national emergency the president had previously promised.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will address the drug crisis, which took the lives of 64,000 Americans last year, in a speech from the White House on Thursday afternoon

The public health emergency will "reorient all of the federal government and executive branch resources toward focusing on providing relief to this urgent need," a senior White House official told reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Past instances of public health emergencies in the U.S. include the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009, as well severe weather events and natural disasters.

The declaration alone provides no additional money to combat the problem but allows existing grant money to be redirected to better deal with the crisis.

Among other things, the public health declaration allows for expanded access to "telemedicine" services, something the White House points out as important for a crisis that is concentrated in some rural areas across the United States.

On Wednesday, Trump promised a "big meeting" on opioids and said an emergency declaration "gives us the power to do things that you can't do right now." He first said he would declare such an emergency in August, a move his opioid commission recommended over the summer.

Asked by NBC News why the president is not following through on that pledge, a senior administration official says that particular declaration would not be particularly useful in coping with the opioid crisis.

The public health emergency declaration lasts 90 days, but can be renewed until no longer needed.

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