Back in late October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency after alarming rates of drug abuse caused a skyrocketed death rate in the United States.
“Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic,” Trump said during his declaration. “It will be defeated. We will free our nation from the terrible affliction of drug abuse. And, yes, we will overcome addiction in America. We are going to overcome addiction in America. We have fought and won many battles and many wars before. And we will win again.”
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 52,404 deaths occurred in 2015 from overdoses, and 2016 saw a 22 percent rise with roughly 64,000 deaths reported. 2017 statistics have not yet been released but the numbers are predicted to be even higher.
The significance of declaring a public health emergency automatically brings the issue to the top of the government’s list of priorities, which creates a flow of funding to help the areas struggling the most.
FEMA can declare a natural disaster, and the secretary of Health and Human services can declare an emergency for poisonings and infectious diseases, but the Trump administration did not have clear direction on what to declare the opioid epidemic; before Oct. 26, 2017, there had been no precedent for the opioid public emergency. In the end, the officials went with a public health emergency due to the fact that it would allow them to go with a more nationwide approach. FEMA is more concentrated to a specific location and time-frame.
Apart from funding, one of the main results from the opioid public health emergency is a greater access to telemedicine service, or the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical healthcare from a distance. Telemedicine service is most helpful in improving access to medical services in rural communities that likely do not have help close by. Southern rural communities are where the most opioid abuse is recorded. Just in North Carolina alone, four of its cities made the top 25 list for places with the highest percentage of citizens abusing opioids, according to North Carolina Health News. Out of the nationwide report, Wilmington is shockingly at the very top of the list with more than 11.6 percent of its population abusing opioids. The other three North Carolina cities that made the top 25 list are Hickory at 9.9 percent, Jacksonville at 8.2 percent and Fayetteville at 7.9 percent.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced a 31 million dollar grant to fight opioid abuse in North Carolina. North Carolina has experienced a 73 percent rise in opioid-related deaths from 2005-2015 according to NC DHHS. In lieu of the crisis, the North Carolina Opioid Action Plan was created by community partners to try to improve the statistics. The plan involves coordinating the state’s infrastructure to tackle the opioid crisis, reducing the oversupply of prescription opioids, reducing the diversion of prescription drugs and the flow of illicit drugs, increasing community awareness and prevention, making naloxone widely available, expanding treatment and recovery systems of care and measuring the effectiveness of these strategies based on results.
Various other companies have come forward with grants to help the nation as a whole since the state of emergency has been announced.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has given 144.1 million dollars in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction in support of Trump’s commitment to combat the opioid crisis. HHS gave the grants to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to expand treatment and recovery services for pregnant or postpartum women struggling with addiction.
“Opioid use disorders continue to plague our nation,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use according to hhs.gov. “These funds will support and expand prevention, treatment and recovery services in America’s communities.”
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) donated 28.6 million dollars to help states fight the opioid overdose epidemic, as well as additional funding to 44 states and the District of Columbia to support their previous responses to the epidemic.
According to the CDC, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. For the first time in 50 years, the life expectancy in the United States has fallen for two years straight, mainly due to the copious amounts of young people dying from overdoses. The American life expectancy is now 78.6 years compared to an average of 81.8 years in 25 other developed countries in the world.