Thursday turned into a very eventful day for anyone involved in the recovery community. Splashed across headlines and TV screens, President Donald Trump addressed the nation’s opioid addiction crisis head-on, promising to make sweeping changes over the next 90 days.
Declaring it a “public health emergency,” the Commander-in-Chief vowed to mobilize the federal government and take swift action against the epidemic that killing thousands of U.S. citizens each day.
“As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” Trump told the press during in a lengthy address. “We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
Adding an emotional edge to the moment, Trump surrounded himself with families of Americans who have been impacted by the crisis. He spoke sternly from the White House floor and called out specific drugs by name, including heroin, Oxycontin and the synthetic painkiller fentanyl.
As far as immediate promises go, the President released an order which would allow patients in rural parts of the country to access medication for addiction treatment through telemedicine. Rural America happens to be one the regions hit hardest by the epidemic.
There was also a push to redirect existing U.S. grant money to focus on opioid recovery clinics. Insurance improvements may be on the way too, with state Medicaid programs given more freedom to cover treatment programs for the people enrolled in their plans.
One other Trump pledge concerned awareness and building out national programs to inform the public (particularly young people) about the dangers of painkiller abuse.
“We want to get really tough, really big, really great advertising aimed at persuading Americans not to start using opioids in the first place,” he went on to say. “This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs. It’s really, really easy not to take them.”
To add an extra layer of emotion, Trump also referenced his brother Fred; who died because of alcohol dependency. After his speech, however, criticism did begin to emerge, particularly from news outlets who believe he is not doing enough.
The New York Times felt there was much to be desired from Trump’s plan and interviewed several Democratic lawmakers who agreed.
“America is hemorrhaging lives by the day because of the opioid epidemic, but President Trump offered the country a Band-Aid when we need a tourniquet,”Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey told The Times. “What we need is for the president to seek an appropriation from Congress, I believe in the billions, so that we can rapidly expand access for effective outpatient opioid addiction treatments.”