Healthcare weighs in on Trump's opioid crisis declaration

President Donald Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency Thursday.

Here is how six healthcare organizations reacted to the declaration.

Note: This article will be updated as more commentary becomes available. 

American Medical Association: Patrice Harris, MD, chair of AMA Opioid Task Force and immediate past chair of the AMA, praised the declaration as "a move that will offer needed flexibility and help direct attention to opioid-ravaged communities."

"This alone won't solve a complicated problem. Ending the epidemic will require physicians, insurers, drug manufacturers, and the government to follow through with resources, evidence-based treatment plans and smart public policies at the national and state levels.  

"As physicians, we must be leaders in continuing to make judicious prescribing decisions, and by considering the full range of effective therapies for pain, including nonopioid and nonpharmacologic options, co-prescribing naloxone, helping patients access medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and removing stigma.  

 "At the same time, insurers must be willing to cover pain treatments beyond opioid analgesics as well as long-term comprehensive treatment for opioid use disorder to promote recovery."

CMS: CMS Administrator Seema Verma praised the declaration on Twitter.

"I applaud the president’s actions to address the national health crisis created by opioid abuse," she tweeted with a link to remarks by President Trump. In a separate tweet, she said, "CMS has made attacking this devastating epidemic a top priority and is providing help and resources to clinicians, beneficiaries and families."

Healthcare Distribution Alliance: HDA President and CEO John Gray said his organization welcomes the declaration but acknowledges more work is necessary. 

"This is a national tragedy, and our industry supports every possible effort to reduce the use of opioids while preserving access for those in pain for whom there are limited options.

"While meaningful progress has been made to address the root causes of the epidemic, including the release of new clinical guidelines that can help stem the prevalence of overprescribing, more can be done to address and prevent opioid abuse and misuse among patients and medical providers."

Premier: Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs for the healthcare improvement company, also showed support for the declaration.

"This move helps ease regulations, allowing state and local officials to redirect funds to address the epidemic as well as expanding use of telemedicine to treat those with opioid addiction. As an organization that is dedicated to spreading and scaling tools, resources and practices focused on improving healthcare quality and patient safety, Premier is working closely with our members on tackling opioid addiction, overuse and misuse by actively engaging in a variety of strategies aimed at addressing the epidemic."

Manatt Health: Jonah Frohlich, managing director at the health policy and business strategy advisory firm, said the declaration "is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough." 

"More people are dying from drug overdoses than from car crashes or gun violence, and its cities and counties that are on the front lines, grappling with the devastating human and economic impact of the opioid crisis. More funding is absolutely vital to support city and county programs that are designed to confront the fallout from substance use disorders. Local law enforcement, criminal justice systems, first responders, community and public health agencies need more resources to support programs that engage, treat and divert people away from jails, courts and emergency rooms and towards treatment and therapeutic settings that support recovery. Without additional funding, we will continue to see the destructive impact of the opioid crisis play out in communities across the country." 

National Union of Healthcare Workers: NUHW President Sal Rosselli echoed Mr. Frohlich.

"Declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency is a step in the right direction — but a very, very small step. Public health emergencies are for 90-day periods. Overcoming opioid addiction takes time; it's not like flicking a light switch.

"The Trump administration needs to acknowledge that this is a mental health issue and immediately direct additional resources and support to mental healthcare services. Perhaps, this can now be possible with a new secretary of Health and Human Services. When he was in Congress, former HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, was a fierce opponent of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. 

"Recently, representatives of our union were on Capitol Hill discussing with members of Congress ways to best treat opioid addiction. There seemed to be a broad consensus that bold action was required — not half steps. Only through beefed-up mental healthcare services and a move toward mental health care parity will we beat this addiction crisis."


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