On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the national opioid crisis a public health emergency, which allows the federal government to relax some regulations and allows states to expand the use of telemedicine treatment. The declaration lasts 90 days but can be renewed. The last time a national public health emergency of this scope was declared was during the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009.
A public health emergency does not rise to the level of the more severe “national state of emergency” which would have triggered the release of Disaster Relief Funds for states to use.
Many Democratic Massachusetts officials immediately criticized the extent of the president’s efforts. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said, “Fire and police departments are struggling to afford overdose reversal drugs. Schools and health centers need to expand prevention education to all students. Families need expanded access to substance use treatment. These are actions we can take right now. And this announcement does little to support any of them.” While U.S. Senator Edward Markey said, “President Trump offered the country a Band-Aid when we need a tourniquet.” He was especially critical of the president’s plan to fight the opioid crisis by reallocating funding from HIV/AIDs programs. Markey said that is “robbing Peter to pay Paul, especially as HIV and AIDS rates spike due to increased heroin and fentanyl use.”