Redefining Public Health Emergencies: The Opioid Epidemic
15 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 17, 2017
On July 31, 2017, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis called for President Donald J. Trump to immediately declare a national emergency in response to the opioid epidemic. On August 8, President Trump and then Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price indicated their reluctance to issue a declaration while acknowledging the “horrible,” escalating impacts of opioid abuse nationally. On August 10, the President reconsidered and promised to declare a national emergency, which was issued by HHS at the President’s direction ten weeks later on October 26, 2017. Opioid abuse represents one of the deadliest, preventable threats to the public’s health in the United States over the last two decades. Hundreds of thousands have died already; millions more are at risk of death and other negative impacts absent stronger public health interventions. Consistent with similar state and tribal declarations, a national declaration of public health emergency (PHE) makes possible innovative approaches to curb this preventable crisis impacting millions of Americans. However, as discussed in this article, it also redefines the essence of what can be classified as a PHE in the United States under new criteria.
Keywords: opioids, emergency, law, policy, epidemic
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