Statement on President Trump’s Declaration of the National Opioid Emergency

Statement on President Trump's Declaration of the National Opioid Emergency from NJAMHAA President and CEO Debra L. Wentz, PhD

October 26, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, President Donald Trump officially declared that the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA) and other substance use disorder treatment stakeholders have been eager for the President to make such a declaration, which empowers his Cabinet to take additional steps to address this crisis and dedicate more funds for the essential treatment to save lives.

Every day, approximately 175 Americans - which, as President Trump highlighted in his statement, equates to seven people every hour - die from drug overdoses. Since August alone, more than 10,000 additional lives were lost. We cannot afford to wait any longer. Even one life lost is too many. To ensure access to treatment, it is imperative that action plans be developed, sufficiently funded and implemented without any further delay. Stigma has also been a major barrier to many people not receiving services. We applaud Pres. Trump for sharing his personal story, as this helps to destigmatize drug and alcohol addictions. In addition, his statement about needing to reduce the demand for drugs further reinforces his and the entire Administration's commitment to address all aspects of this emergency.

NJAMHAA is heartened by Pres. Trump's announcements that his Administration will quickly approve states' requests for waivers to overcome the Institutions for Mental Disease exclusion, which prohibits Medicaid payments for residential substance use facilities that have more than 16 beds; will educate physicians to change their prescribing practices; and has directed the National Institutes of Health to work with the pharmaceutical industry to develop non-addictive pain medications. We are equally pleased that grants have been awarded for prevention, law enforcement and research into better pain management techniques for veterans, which will be shared with healthcare providers serving all populations.

As part of these initiatives, the Trump Administration must dedicate even more funds specifically for substance use prevention and also treatment, which has been proven to be highly effective. Narcan is an invaluable resource, as it revives individuals from otherwise fatal overdoses. However, much more is needed, including direct connections to treatment for every individual who is revived with Narcan and capacity for treatment providers to meet the increasing demand for their life-saving services.

All of this requires funding-undoubtedly a large sum, which is still far less than the value of individuals' lives and their right to lead as healthy and successful lives as possible.

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