(from the November 3, 2017 ACP Advocate)
Ending the epidemic, however, requires further action and funding, College notes
President Trump's decision to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency has been met with tempered enthusiasm by the American College of Physicians.
“It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” Trump said during a news conference Oct. 26 to announce his decision. “We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.”
However, he stopped short of calling it a “national emergency” – a declaration that would have come with significantly more funding.
ACP described the move as an important first step, while stressing that more is needed to fully put the brakes on this epidemic.
“Efforts need to be made to make substance use disorder treatment more accessible to those in underserved areas,” said Dr. Jack Ende, ACP's president. “We hope that [the] declaration will be used in a way that achieves that goal.”
Additional federal funding does not automatically follow a public health emergency designation. By contrast, if the president had declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency under the Stafford Act, the federal government would have been able to access monies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Relief Fund to combat the opioid problem.
As it stands, “the Public Health Emergency Fund currently contains only $57,000 – clearly this amount is woefully inadequate to deal with the scope of the opioid epidemic,” Ende said.
The “public health emergency” declaration will be effective for 90 days and can be renewed. It allows the government to redirect resources and expand access to medical services in rural areas.
“This declaration will give the federal government and states additional temporary flexibility to distribute funding, hire staff and waive requirements that may impede access to treatment services,” explained Ryan Crowley, ACP's senior associate for health policy. But, he added, “much more needs to be done to address the epidemic – and it needs to be done fast.”
Read the full article in ACP Advocate.
The ACP Advocate is a bi-weekly e-newsletter that provides ACP members with news about public policy issues affecting internal medicine and patient care.