US President Donald Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis that has gripped the nation for years a national public health emergency.
The designation will not dedicate any more money to the health crisis, but could help redirect existing emergency funds, particularly toward expanding access to medical services in rural areas. However, the US Public Health Emergency Fund that can now be accessed to deal with the opioid epidemic currently contains just $57,000, AP reports, citing the Department of Health and Human Services.
“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” Trump said in a speech at the White House. “As Americans we cannot allow this to continue.”
The declaration will last for 90 days and can be renewed afterward. It will expand access to telemedicine in rural areas, direct agencies to slash bureaucratic delays when it comes to distributing existing grants and shift some federal grant funds toward this particular drug crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 140 Americans die from opioid overdoses each day. “We are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history,” Trump said Thursday. “It’s just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort.”
Trump made addressing the drug crisis a key point of his campaign. “When I won the New Hampshire primary, I promised the people of New Hampshire that I would stop drugs from pouring into your communities. I am now doubling down on that promise, and can guarantee you we will not only stop the drugs from pouring in, but we will help all of those people so seriously addicted get the assistance they need to unchain themselves,” Trump said in Maine shortly before the election last year.
Critics say that without more money to fight the crisis, the declaration will amount to little.