The White House's national opioid commission has called on President Donald Trump to declare a national public health emergency in response to the crisis spread across all 50 states.
"Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it. The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled," the interim report from the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis said.
"With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks," it continued. Yet only one in 10 people suffering with the disease of addiction have access to proper treatment and support to address their addiction, according to the Surgeon General's 2016 report.
The commission's report recommended the elimination of barriers within the Medicaid program that exclude federal funding from treating mental illnesses; mandated education initiatives of opioid use, abuse and proper prescription methods for all medical schools, dental schools and Drug Enforcement Agency registrants; the immediate establishment and funding of a federal incentive to increase access to Medication Assisted Treatment; and the dispensary of naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug, to all local law enforcement as well as its prescription included with high-dose opioid medications.
It also recommended increased funding for law enforcement agencies for the development of fentanyl detection sensors; increased funding for all states to establish interstate prescription drug monitoring programs; and better aligned patient privacy laws specific to addiction to educate medical professionals treating and prescribing medicine to a patient about a patient's potential substance abuse disorder.
"It is not only critical that the Federal Government provide sufficient resources to prevent and combat this disease; it must also provide the easiest pathway for private providers and local and state governments to achieve success," the letter said.
The commission, established by Trump in an executive order on March 29, aims to "combat and treat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction, and the opioid crisis," according to its website. Its members include Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey as chairman, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, former congressman Patrick Kennedy and Dr. Bertha Madras, a Harvard Medical School professor who specializes in addiction biology. Its final report is due in October.
"Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life," the commission said. "It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will."
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