Taking this step will “empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the executive branch even further to deal with this loss of life,” according to a special White House commission charged with looking into the crisis. President Trump declared the opioid crisis a state of emergency under the Stafford Act.
The commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, wants to allow Medicaid funds to be used to finance inpatient treatment of mental illnesses, including substance-use disorders, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. The commission also wants medications used to treat opioid addiction, such as buprenorphine and methadone, to made much more available. One way to do this would be to make sure that staff at federally qualified health centers be licensed to prescribe buprenorphine.
Still, there are some skeptics who wonder just how much of a difference the state of emergency will make.
Joshua Sharfstein, an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells the WSJ: “The critical question if you declare an emergency is what are you going to do that you couldn’t do yesterday.”
And, as the WSJ points out, even HHS Secretary Tom Pence earlier this week question whether declaring a state of emergency is really necessary. He said on Tuesday: “We believe that, as this point, that the resources that we need, or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president.”
Source: Wall Street Journal