WASHINGTON, DC – After President Trump proclaimed in August that he would declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency,” which his own opioid commission had recommended, the Trump Administration instead today stopped short of that formal declaration and the extra powers and legal authority that would come with it, and instead declared the opioid crisis to be a “public health emergency,” without including new funds to combat an epidemic that last year killed more than 64,000 Americans, U.S. Senator Jack Reed issued the following statement:

“The opioid crisis is a national emergency that requires urgent care, attention, and resources.  The President’s response has been underwhelming. 

“Today’s announcement fits a pattern for President Trump: lots of bluster, little action, no solutions, and punting of the problem to someone else.

“While President Trump seems to recognize there’s a serious problem, the fact is he’s ignored the recommendations of his own opioid commission and the problem continues to worsen and thousands of Americans are dying.

“The President’s words don’t match his deeds.  If this is a serious public health emergency now, why has he spent that last several months trying to slash Medicaid and deny millions of Americans access to lifesaving treatment?  The President and Congressional Republicans had no trouble finding ways to slash $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid to offset tax cuts for the wealthy, why can’t they find any funds for this public health emergency?

“Treatment and prevention are the only way to stop this crisis, but they cost money beyond the reach of a city, town, or state.  The federal government needs to step up with a national response and provide states with resources to expand our treatment infrastructure.

“We have already lost 203 Rhode Islanders to opioid overdoses this year, and nationally, about 142 Americans are killed by opioids every day.  Instead of offering platitudes, President Trump should bring people together and take meaningful action.  And Congressional Republicans should join us in providing emergency resources.

“Today’s declaration just underscores the fact that President Trump either doesn’t understand the national opioid crisis or simply doesn’t care.  This is a real problem that requires real leadership and real resources.  If President Trump and Congressional Republicans fail to act, they will enable this crisis to continue unabated.”

Last year, Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, backed an amendment to provide an additional $600 million to help counter the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in an emergency supplemental spending bill.  However, Republicans blocked that effort.