Local health officials commend President's approach to opioid crisis


U.S. President Donald Trump plans to declare a nationwide public health emergency Thursday to address an escalating opioid crisis that killed more than 175 people each day previous year.

The United States is battling a surge in opioid-related deaths, including 33,000 in 2015, more than any year on record, according to federal data.

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner J. Patrick O'Neal, M.D. says, "We do not know specifically how this declaration will impact Georgia". It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction, never been this way.

"While I appreciate that the president has finally taken a formal step, his declaration is short on specifics and lacks critical funding", she said.

The president's declaration of a public health emergency does not provide additional federal funding, but it does allow agencies to redirect previously budgeted grant money.

Without allocating new funds towards addressing opioids issues, the government could only combat the problem through reallocating parts of existing funding streams.

Trump said he would discuss stopping the flow of fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Asia next month.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin of ME, R-2nd District, a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, praised the president's action and said he hopes it leads to more sustained action.

Portman said, "While Congress has made some progress in addressing this crisis by enacting the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act and the 21st Century CURES Act a year ago, we can and must do more".

The President used his brother Fred's struggles with alcohol as the reason why he stayed away from drinking and smoking.

"Those approvals will come very, very fast", Trump said.

First Lady Melania Trump joined her husband in the East Wing to offer prayers to those fighting and recovering from drug addiction.

"What I found to be the common theme with all of these stories is that this can happen to any of us", she said.

The president did not declare a more comprehensive national state of emergency as recommended by his Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

The Public Health Emergency Fund now contains just $57,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, a negligible amount. The president promised "really tough, really big, really great advertising" to urge Americans not to start using opioids, an initiative reminiscent of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign in the '80s. "This epidemic is a national health emergency".

Sununu issued a press statement following the announcement, in which he praised Trump's efforts as the first president to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The number of prescription opioids legally sold almost quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, despite no change in the amount of pain that Americans reported, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. He calls the opioid crisis a "national shame".

And some in ME have criticized LePage for being slow to embrace medication assisted treatment and Narcan, the overdose antidote, even as deaths were piling up.

However, experts have told ABC News that declaring it an official national emergency, as Trump long touted he would eventually do, might have been a mistake.