US President Donald Trump has declared the opioid crisis in the United States a “public health emergency,” stopping short of declaring a “national emergency” he vowed months ago that would have freed up more federal money.
“We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,” Trump said Thursday at a somber event at the White House attended by former addicts, parents of drug abuse victims and treatment specialists.
Trump called the epidemic a “national shame” and “human tragedy,” adding: “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue.”
The president’s declaration will redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat a drug epidemic that kills more than 150 Americans every day. The direction would also make treatment more accessible for abusers of prescription painkillers.
But it does not result in more money to combat the crisis. Some critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said the declaration was meaningless without additional funding.
The president promised in August to declare a “national emergency” on opioids, which would have triggered the rapid allocation of federal funding to address the issue. A “public health emergency” does not provide any increased federal funding to address the crisis.
The announcement also disappointed some experts and advocates in the field of drug addiction, who said it was inadequate to fight a growing crisis that kills more than a 100 Americans daily.
US drug overdose deaths in 2016 continued to climb despite ongoing efforts to stem the epidemic, according to the latest government numbers.
Overall deaths from drug abuse in the US reached about 64,000 last year, up from 52,000 in 2015. More than half were related to opioids.
Health experts have warned that the opioid crisis in the United States
may spread to Europe.
Europe’s overdose deaths rose for the third consecutive year in 2015 to 8,441 and 81 percent of them were related to opioids, which include heroin.