Political Editors / Oct. 27, 2017

Trump, the Opioid Epidemic, and National Emergency

He won’t declare a national emergency because he recognizes the proper manner in which to combat the crisis.

President Donald Trump refuses to declare a “national emergency” on the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation, but that’s a good thing. Instead he has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to declare it a “public-health emergency,” thereby sending the all-important question of funding to Congress, where, according to the Constitution, it belongs in the first place.

While some have suggested that Trump has the authority to declare a national emergency via the Stafford Act, a law designed to give the president the authority to spend on national emergencies, the opioid epidemic doesn’t fit into that generally recognized category. The Stafford Act was meant for dealing with sudden catastrophic events, not slow-growing crises. The opioid epidemic has been slowly building over the years, only recently reaching crisis levels witnessed today.

By requesting that HHS declare it a “public-health emergency,” the HHS secretary can then “take such action as may be appropriate to respond to the public health emergency, including making grants, providing awards for expenses and entering into contracts and conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment or prevention.” In other words, Trump recognizes the crisis level the opioid epidemic has reached and has made exactly the right decision for taking the problem seriously and seeking to develop a solution.

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