Trump to officially declare opioid crisis public health emergency: 7 things to know

President Donald Trump on Thursday will announce he is instructing HHS to declare the opioid overdose epidemic a public health emergency, according to a report from The New York Times.

The move falls short of the recommendation made in July by the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, established by the president via executive order in March, suggesting the president declare the drug overdose epidemic a national emergency.

Here are seven things to know.

1. The distinction between the declarations rests in the laws that enable them. Declaration of a national emergency under the Stafford Act would open access to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund, which carries a budget of $4.28 billion. Such declarations are typically reserved for natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Declaration of public health emergency falls under the Public Health Services Act and permits access to an HHS fund specific to that law. Currently, the balance of the HHS fund is $57,000.

2. Senior White House officials said the money to fight the opioid crisis will be largely dependent on budget negotiations and a spending bill Congress must pass by December. A specific dollar amount has not yet been disclosed, according to a report from STAT.

3. Declaration of a public health crisis will expand access to addiction services through telemedicine, which could provide substantial support to rural areas hit hard by the epidemic, according to the Times.

4. The declaration would also allow HHS and governors to make temporary appointments to specialists best equipped to address the crisis, according to STAT.

5. Additional measures to be taken by the White House include shifting resources from programs focused exclusively on HIV/AIDS care to programs that focus dually on HIV/AIDS care and substance use issues. Also, the administration will order the Department of Labor to issue grants to those displaced from the workforce due to opioid addiction, according to STAT.

6. While the public health emergency declaration alone does not reverse a ban on Medicaid reimbursements for addiction treatment at facilities with more than 16 beds, Mr. Trump said on Thursday he would act to suspend the rule, according to The New York Times

7. White House officials did not mention expanded access to the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone on Wednesday, according to STAT. It is currently unclear what actions the administration will take to expand access to this drug, a move experts widely consider to be a crucial component in addressing the crisis. 

Note: This story was updated to include President Trump's comments on the Medicaid reimbursment rule for addiction treatment facilities.

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