HHS Secretary: National Health Emergency Declaration Not Necessary to Treat Opioid Epidemic

(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters Tuesday that a national health emergency declaration is not necessary to treat the opioid epidemic.

The secretary said President Donald Trump “believes that we will treat it as an emergency – and it is an emergency.”

“When you have the capacity of Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium dying every single year in this nation, that’s a crisis that has to be given incredible attention, and the president is giving it that attention,” Price said.

However, when asked why the president has not officially declared the opioid crisis a national emergency and whether he plans to, Price said that most national emergencies that were declared in the past “focused on a specific area, a time-limited problem — either an infectious disease or a specific threat to public health.”

He gave the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Sandy as examples.

“So we believe that, at 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,” Price said.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who leads the president’s commission on opioid abuse, has called for a national health emergency to deal with the crisis.

“The president’s commission on the opioid crisis recommended that the president urgently, immediately call this a national emergency because that frees up resources; that lifts some of these barriers that allows more Medicaid recipients to go into treatment. Why do you feel like that isn’t something that needs to happen right now? I mean, was the commission wrong on this?” a reporter asked.

“No, there’s an interim report from the commission, and it’s being reviewed at all different levels of the government, but everything that you just mentioned can be done, and many of it — much of it is being done without the declaration of a national emergency — either a Stafford Act emergency or a public health emergency,” Price replied.

He said the administration is “talking about what should be done and working through the department and through the other agencies that I mentioned, to come forward with that coherent strategy, that comprehensive strategy and recommendation for the president, and we’ll do so in short order.”

Trump told reporters prior to a briefing on the opioid crisis that “the best way to prevent addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place.”

“If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they do start, it’s awfully tough to get off,” he said.

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