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Opioid abuse is a crisis, but is it an emergency?
That’s the question gripping Washington after President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recommended that the president declare the epidemic a national emergency.
If the president does move ahead and declare the opioid crisis an emergency, here’s what could happen.
1. FEMA money could be available to states.
The president could use authority under the Stafford Act to declare an emergency. That would open up resources that are usually reserved for natural disasters like hurricanes or floods, including FEMA’s disaster relief fund, which had about $1.5 billion available as of July.
2. Public health workers could be redeployed.
The president could ask HHS Secretary Price to declare an emergency under the Public Health Service Act. Unlike FEMA, HHS doesn’t have a standing emergency fund (although during last year’s Zika virus scare, many people urged that one be established), but money could be freed up. Right now, public health workers and researchers are working on projects defined by grants from HHS. If Price were to declare an emergency, those workers could be redeployed temporarily, from working on AIDS outreach for example, to work on substance abuse issues.
3. Access to medication-assisted treatment could get a boost.