Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. He talked a lot about it in his State of the Union address. But one thing he hasn’t done is ask Congress for the funds needed to fight the epidemic.
“The emergency declaration has accomplished little because there’s no funding behind it,” Opioid Commission member and former congressman Patrick Kennedy told CNN last week. “You can’t expect to stem the tide of a public health crisis that is claiming over 64,000 lives per year without putting your money where your mouth is.”
Prior to Mr. Trump’s address to Congress, one administration source was hopeful that the president would use the State of the Union to make a request for funding. But the president did not call for new funding with his speech, while still claiming that the administration is dedicated to “helping get treatment for those in need.”
Asking for funding isn’t the only thing Trump and his administration have neglected. They’ve also done little to reduce prices for the overdose-reversing drug Naxolone:
“Internationally, Naloxone is available for less than a dollar and that is the kind of price that we should be demanding, because the product is generic, cheap to make, and we need it to really make a difference,” said Leo Beletsky, a law and health sciences professor at Northeastern University.
“Obviously in the U.S. you’re paying $70 dollars for a two-dose pack,” he said. “You could be saving three times as many people at the very least. You could be saving 10 people for the price of one. These are real numbers and real lives.”
Trump has signed a law providing screening technology to help keep fentanyl from being brought into the country and the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Agency have “continued to crack down on pharmacies and prescribers of opioids to reduce the number of prescription drugs available to Americans,” but those are moves that fall in line with Trump’s obsessions with closing the borders and law enforcement. When it comes to anything that looks like a public health component to fighting the opioid crisis, Trump is failing through inaction.