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President Declares Opioid Epidemic a Public Health Emergency

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency under federal law. The declaration, under the Public Health Service Act, lifts restrictions and reallocates resources to help combat the crisis, including:

  • training health care providers on prescribing best practices;
  • expanding access to telemedicine services to treat addiction in rural areas;
  • giving the executive branch access to the Public Health Emergency Fund;
  • expediting the hiring process for health professionals working on the opioid crisis;
  • encouraging the development of less addictive alternatives to opioids; and
  • offering Dislocated Worker Grants to people struggling with opioid addiction.

The president also signaled in his remarks a willingness to approve state waivers for the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion in the Medicaid program. Five states already have such waivers, and four additional states have applied and are waiting for a response.

The emergency declaration lasts 90 days and can be renewed. Many actions in the declaration are consistent with recommendations from an interim report released in August by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The commission is expected to issue a final report on Nov. 1.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded more than $28 million to states to help combat the crisis and prevent overdoses.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Rachel Schwartz is a former policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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