President Trump said he will declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, labeling it “a serious problem, the likes of which we’ve never had” in response to a reporter’s question Thursday.
The action comes at the recommendation of the White House’s task force on opioids, which recently included it in a preliminary report. It also comes the same week Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters that the White House was not ready to make such a declaration.
The White House has not released an official declaration, so it’s unclear what it will look like or what federal rules may be relaxed as a result. Advocates have pushed for flexibility about issues like Medicaid-funded addiction treatment.
Trump said he planned to make the declaration in response to a reporter’s question during a photo-op.
“We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency,” he said, according to a White House press pool report. “It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had. You know when I was growing up they had the LSD and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years. And I have to say this in all fairness, this is a worldwide problem, not just a United States problem. This is happening worldwide. But this is a national emergency and we are drawing documents now to so attest.”
The commission that recommended the emergency declaration also plans to explore issues of youth opioid use, its preliminary report said. That includes: “Evidence-based prevention programs for schools, and tools for teachers and parents to enhance youth knowledge of the dangers of drug use, as well as early intervention strategies for children with environmental and individual risk factors (trauma, foster care, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and developmental disorders).”
Schools in areas affected by heavy opioid use have seen its impacts on their students, some of whom have been taken into foster care as a result of their parents’ addictions, Education Week reported earlier this year.
Related reading on opioids and schools:
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions Calls On DARE to Help Fight Opioid Epidemic
- Watch: Views on the Opioid Crisis From a School and the Author of Hillbilly Elegy
- Drug to Treat Opioid, Heroin Overdoses Offered Free to All US High Schools
- Students’ Shifting Marijuana Views Tied to Legalization Push
- More School Drug Prevention Programs Address Prescription Painkiller Abuse
- Vermont Governor’s Speech Focuses on Drug Addiction
- Opinion: Are You Thinking About Heroin?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.