Six months ago, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic — which took 64,000 lives in 2016 — a public health emergency that could make more people eligible for Medicaid or dispatch more medical professionals to the areas hit hardest by the drug crisis. The declaration has been extended twice, most recently on Tuesday. Health policy experts say it’s unclear what — if any — federal rules have been waived since the declaration. Trump did not offer state and local governments more money to combat the drug crisis. Because of this, some say the declaration has been nothing more than an empty promise, reports Governing. “We’ve seen no effect here in Baltimore from the emergency [declaration],” says Leana Wen, the city’s health commissioner. “We could save so many more lives if we had more resources. We don’t need any more rhetoric.”
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. It would require the federal government to spend $10 billion a year for 10 years on the opioid crisis. There are at least seven other bills pending to address the opioid epidemic. The one with the most bipartisan support is the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0. It offers $1 billion more than current federal funding for treatment and prevention. Frustration over federal inaction is even boiling over within the president’s own party. Before Trump traveled to New Hampshire to talk about opioids, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu confronted White House officials about the lack of funding to back up the emergency declaration. In his speech, Trump focused on cracking down on illegal immigration and drug dealers.”I’m deeply concerned with the focus on incarceration. It goes against what science says, which is that addiction is a disease. We know that treatment works. The war on drugs doesn’t,” says Wen.