With an estimated 175 people dying from opioids each day in the United States – seven an hour – President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Americans to join together to combat drug use, as he declared a ‘public health emergency’ in order to funnel more government resources into the fight against opioid painkillers.
“We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic; we can do it,” the President said.
“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States by far,” the President told a group gathered at the White House.
“I am calling on all Americans to join the ranks of guardian angels,” Mr. Trump said, saying it’s time for everyone to help reduce the scourge of opioid abuse.
Sharing the story of his brother’s own battle with alcohol, the President repeatedly said that the nation needs to send the message that drug use is not acceptable.
“He had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol,” Mr. Trump said of his brother Fred.
“There is nothing desirable about drugs,” the President said. “They’re bad.”
“The opioid epidemic has affected more than 2 million Americans nationwide,” First Lady Melania Trump said in the White House East Room.
“This can happen to any of us,” the First Lady added, saying ‘no state has been spared.”
In a release to reporters, the White House detailed some of the moves being made by the Trump Administration.
The move was greeted warmly by Republicans in the Congress.
“Opioid abuse is a nationwide crisis that continues to grow and the effects continue to devastate families across America," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
“It is important that the Administration today declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), whose district around Dayton, Ohio will see hundreds of opioid related deaths this year.
“This is unacceptable,” Turner added.
One thing that is not included in today’s declaration is money for work on opioids by a public health emergency fund. The White House says there will be an effort to get more resources on opioids in a year-end budget deal that Congress will try to strike before Christmas.
Democrats quickly seized on that, saying the Trump Administration move was welcome, but that the efforts need resources immediately.
“We cannot afford to wait months between an announcement and action,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who called her home state the “epicenter of this crisis.”
“Without funding, this won't do near enough,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Saving lives will require resources, too.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was more blunt.
“Show me the money,” she said of the Trump opioid announcement.