President Trump will declare the worsening epidemic of opioid overdoses as a national emergency, accepting an urgent recommendation from a commission he appointed, the New York Times reports. The commission concluded last week that such a declaration was its “first and most urgent recommendation.” Led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, the commission said such a declaration would help direct more resources and attention to the crisis. Trump’s top health care official had played down the likelihood of an emergency declaration. Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday that the crisis “can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president.”
Since then, Trump has come under criticism from Democrats, who accused him of failing to respond adequately to the overdoses. A Democratic National Committee spokesman said the president had “done nothing” for the people affected by the drug crisis. Trump said yesterday, “It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had. You know, when I was growing up, they had the L.S.D. and they had certain generations of drugs. There’s never been anything like what’s happened to this country over the last four or five years.” In 2015, 33,000 of the 52,000 overdose deaths nationwide were the result of the use of opioids like heroin and fentanyl. After a briefing from health officials this week, Trump called the overdoses “a tremendous problem in our country.” He said he hoped that “we get it taken care of as well as it can be taken care of.” Declaring an emergency could allow states and cities hard hit by the opioid crisis to receive federal disaster relief funds and other types of urgent aid, just as they do after hurricanes or tornadoes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.