Lawmakers ask for renewal of opioid public health emergency declaration

WASHINGTON (WISH) — Indiana senators and representatives are asking President Trump to renew the opioid public health emergency declaration. It’s set to expire on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Back in October, President Trump asked the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, allowing the government to accelerate temporary appointments of people

Public health emergencies typically expire after 90 days.

The public health emergency declaration allowed the government to redirect resources in various ways and to expand access to medical services in rural areas, but it didn’t bring in any new dollars.

Senator Joe Donnelly joined a number of senators in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to renew the declaration.Here’s what that letter said: 

Dear Mr. President,

The opioid epidemic is devastating our country and it is only growing worse. Newly released data from the CDC shows that we lost more than 42,000 people to an opioid-related overdose in 2016. That’s a 28% increase in overdose deaths compared to 2015 and a five-fold increase since 1999.[1] Put another way, we lost more than 115 people every day in 2016 to opioids. That is why it is critical that we immediately take every possible step and use every tool at our disposal to work to end this crisis.

On October 26, 2017, you declared a public health emergency with the goal of mobilizing federal resources and strengthening the federal response to the opioid epidemic. This emergency declaration expires on January 23, 2018. Unfortunately, we have seen too little action taken relative to the magnitude of the problem and urge you to immediately renew the opioid public health emergency declaration and to work with us to push for substantial funding to address the opioid crisis as part of the upcoming budget deal and omnibus negotiations.

Federal funding supports efforts to help stop the epidemic at every level. It is needed to prevent addiction, provide treatment to those with substance use disorders, fund overdose reversal treatments and harm mitigation efforts, strengthen law enforcement, and support efforts to care for the many children who are the unwitting victims of this disease.

That is why it is critical that we work together to provide every federal agency with the resources that they need to help our states overcome opioid use disorders. Too many in our communities are losing their lives, families, and futures to opioids and we need to be doing everything humanly possible to help them.

We hope that you will immediately renew the opioid public health emergency and work with us to fight for the federal funding needed to adequately address this crisis.


Joe Donnelly (D-IN),

Joe Manchin (D-WV),

Sherrod Brown (D-OH),

Bob Casey (D-PA),

Claire McCaskill (D-MO),

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI),

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH),

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI),

Angus King (I-ME),

Ed Markey (D-MA),

Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

According to a spokesperson for Rep. Jackie Walorski, she signed onto a letter being sent Saturday urging the president to renew the emergency declaration and to work with Congress to advance additional funding to address the opioid crisis.

In a statement to 24 Hour News 8 she said:

The epidemic of opioid abuse is taking lives, destroying families, and devastating communities across the country. The president was right to declare a public health emergency, and I believe this declaration must be renewed so we can continue working on solutions. I am committed to working with my colleagues, the administration, and state and local leaders to ensure our communities have the tools and resources needed to end this crisis.

A spokesperson for Rep. Luke Messer says he also recently signed a House letter asking for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renew the public health emergency declaration. In a statement to 24 Hour News 8, Congressman Messer said:

President Trump was right to call the opioid epidemic a public health emergency because it’s clear that more needs to be done. In Indiana, opioid addiction is devastating families and communities across our state, and we need all hands on deck. I will continue to work with state leaders like Governor Holcomb and the President to come up with real solutions to combat this crisis.

Congressman Andre Carson sent the following statement when asked about the renewal:

While attention to the opioid crisis is important, far more important is actually dedicating the resources to ending this epidemic, which has hit Indiana especially hard. Unfortunately, President Trump’s designation came with no new federal funding, no clear strategy, and comes at the same time as his Administration continues to gut the programs that provide opioid treatment.

Those working with people impacted by the opioid epidemic also hope there is more done.

“We’re talking about addiction and the opioid addiction and five years ago, this was a stigma and nobody talked about it and unfortunately, it still is a stigma but the reality is people are still dying from this disease. We are in a crisis and we haven’t seen the worst of it and so we’re really at this point where, we’re urging our government leaders and officials to make a stand and say we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, essentially and make a commitment to our community and to the people and the families that are living with addiction that their lives are worth something. And we’re grateful for that conversation, but we need to see more,” said Wendy Noe, executive director at Dove Recovery House, a home offering free recovery services to 38 women a night with a three-month wait list.

24 Hour News 8 has reached out to Health and Human Services about the renewal of the opioid public health emergency declaration, but as of Friday morning, had not received any information.


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