The first lady relayed her involvement in fighting the epidemic and the president announced the declaration of a public health emergency.
The declaration will last 90-days and “will reorient all of the federal government and executive branch resources toward focusing on providing relief to this urgent need,” a senior White House official told reporters Thursday. The order can be renewed as many times as needed.
While the order provides no additional funding to address opioid abuse, it will allow for expanded access to telemedicine services and relaxed rules that may allow for increased availability of drugs like methadone that help addicts recover from addiction.
Prescription drugs abuse, heroin addiction and now the incredibly lethal and potent fentanyl have combined to create an epidemic that killed 64,000 Americans in 2016.
“Drug demand and opioid misuse is the crisis next door,” said presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway. “This is no longer someone else’s co-worker, someone else’s community, someone else’s kid. Drug use knows no geographic boundaries or demographic differences.”
The president had previously stated that he would declare a national emergency which is a stronger declaration than a health emergency, but White House officials told reporters that a national emergency would not be useful in combatting the opioid crisis.