Trump's Declaration Of Opioid Epidemic As Public Health Emergency Gets Mixed Reviews In Mass.

President Trump speaks during an event to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency Thursday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Trump speaks during an event to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency Thursday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump's declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency is getting mixed reviews in Massachusetts.

The president said the opioid epidemic "will be defeated," but his limited 90-day public health emergency declaration on Thursday does not dedicate any specific amount of funding to fight the epidemic.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who is a member of Trump's opioid commission, said the emergency declaration is a "strong step in the right direction," but he's calling on the White House and Congress to fully fund the commission's recommendations.

Speaking at an event in Lawrence Thursday, the Republican governor said he is eager for next week's release of the White House commission's final report and thinks that national leaders should do what was done in Massachusetts.

"We had a report in Massachusetts, we turned it into legislation and action and started implementing it," Baker said. "It's important that the administration act on the stuff they don't need legislation for, and it's important for Congress to act on the things that do."

The president said his declaration would do several things, such as expand access to some inpatient treatment and improve access to medication-assisted treatment, particularly through telemedicine. But Trump's declaration does not mention many of the recommendations from his own commission.

The former leader of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, who is now executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, says he was surprised that there were not more specifics from the president.

"To call this a public health emergency and not allocate any resources really makes this declaration hollow," Botticelli told WBUR. "There really wasn't a level of specific actions ... that would lead anybody to believe that what he announced is going to have any sort of impact."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, called the president's announcement "woefully inadequate."

"Our communities need federal funding and resources to fight this epidemic," she said. "Families need expanded access to substance use treatment. These are actions we can take right now. And this announcement does little to support any of them."

The audience at the White House for the president's announcement included members of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, or PAARI, which started in Gloucester two years ago. The program allows drug users to go to police stations for help getting into addiction treatment.

"I think I can speak for our 320 police chiefs and I'm very disappointed," said John Rosenthal, co-founder of PAARI. "This declaration falls far short. This is all talk, no action. Every day another 175 people are going to die in this country because of overdoses."

Many treatment providers were also disappointed.

Ray Tamasi, president of the Gosnold Innovation Center on Cape Cod, said dealing with the opioid epidemic will require a massive investment as well as changing education about the dangers of prescription drugs.

"Compared to where we've been the last 15 years on this, we've moved up the chain a bit, not quite at the level many of us were hoping," Tamasi said. "This requires a massive and targeted investment and I'm not sure we got it out of this announcement today."

On Wednesday, some members of Massachusetts congressional delegation introduced a bill would invest $45 billion "for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids."


Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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