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The National Safety Council welcomed President Donald J. Trump’s declaration on Thursday that the opioid crisis is a “nationwide public health emergency,” but urged more action.
The Itasca, Illinois-based nonprofit, which advocates for workplace safety initiatives, commended the president for addressing the opioid problem but said in a statement Thursday the “strategy is still vague at a time when a clear path forward is critical.”
Announcing his first major initiative on the opioid problem, which he frequently discussed during his election campaign last year, President Trump said he was directing “all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis.”
Among other things, the administration’s action allows for expanded access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment, according to a press briefing.
It will also help curb “bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process” by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily appoint specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively, the briefing said.
The move also allows the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help workers who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis, “subject to available funding.”
“We are already distributing nearly $1 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment, and over $50 million dollars to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and facing addiction,” President Trump told reporters. “We have also launched an $81 million partnership to research better pain management techniques for our incredible veterans.”
In its statement, the National Safety Council said the president’s announcement “fell short” of previous recommendations, which called for declaring a national emergency under the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act, “both of which would have unlocked critically needed funds.”
“While an effort to find non-addictive alternatives to opioid is a step in the right direction, the federal response must include adequate funding for implementing other evidence-based strategies as well,” the statement said.
Measures to reduce opioid addiction should include mandatory prescriber education, regulation of pain clinics, expansion of prescription drug monitoring programs and expanded access to the opioid overdose treatment drug naloxone.