President Trump last fall promised to “liberate” Americans from the “scourge of addiction,” officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic. That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done, Politico reports. Trump has not proposed new resources or spending, typically the starting point for any emergency response. He promised to roll out a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign to spread awareness about addiction, but that has yet to take shape. Key public health and drug posts in the administration remain vacant.
A White House official disputed the assessment of inaction, saying the emergency declaration has allowed the president to use “his bully pulpit to draw further attention to this emergency that he inherited.” The official added that the declaration has enabled federal agencies to “really change their focus and prioritize the crisis,” and that getting an effective media campaign underway “takes time.” The emergency declaration can be extended, though that’s up to the acting Health and Human Services secretary. In West Virginia, with the highest U.S. drug overdose death rate, Public Health Commissioner Rahul Gupta hasn’t seen any significant change under Trump’s emergency order. “His thoughts and prayers have helped,” Gupta said. “But additional funding and resources would be more helpful.” Rob Morrison of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors said, “I have not seen an explosion of activity linked to this declaration. None of our members have knocked on my door to say they have been provided money or actual people on the ground.”