(MENAFN - Gulf Times) US President Donald Trump has declared a public health emergency in the United States caused by rampant addiction and overdoses due to opioid drugs.
'This epidemic is a national health emergency. Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now. As Americans we cannot allow this to continue, Trump said, speaking at the White House, surrounded by several people who have lost a loved-one to opioid addiction.
Trump said that addressing the problem will require a major push on many fronts and called on every American to get involved in the fight.
An advertising campaign to prevent young people trying drugs and efforts to find non-addictive pain medications are among the initiatives.
Trump also said when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his upcoming trip to Asia, he will raise the subject of opioid producers in China sending the drug to the US.
The US president has repeatedly said, as recently as Wednesday, that he planned to declare a 'national emergency to fight the abuse of opioids such as Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl.
But the officials said that instead of declaring a national emergency, the president would order the acting secretary of health and human services to announce a 'nationwide public health emergency.
A national emergency gives states access to federal disaster relief funds but the officials said a public health emergency declaration was more appropriate in battling a long-term crisis such as the opioid epidemic.
The declaration does not provide any increased federal funding to address the crisis but the officials said the White House would seek more money from Congress to do so.
The officials said that the public health emergency declaration lasts for 90 days and can be renewed repeatedly.
It will allow the Department of Labour, for example, to provide dislocated worker grants to opioid addicts to help them break what an official called the 'cycle of addiction and unemployment.
It will also provide increased access to telemedicine treatment for people in rural areas such as Appalachia and the Rust Belt, which have been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis.
In addition, the president would direct the heads of government agencies and departments to 'exercise all appropriate emergency authorities that they have to reduce the number of deaths and minimise the devastation caused by the opioid crisis, an official said.
The last time a public health emergency was declared in the United States was in 2009 in response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak.
A commission set up by Trump to look into drug addiction and abuse made a 'recommendation that the president declare a national emergency under the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.
The Stafford Act allows the federal government to provide assistance to states to help them deal with major disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.
The Public Health Service Act gives the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to respond to public health emergencies.
According to the commission, 142 Americans died every day from a drug overdose in 2015 more than the number killed in car crashes and gun homicides combined.
Two-thirds of the drug overdose deaths in that year were linked to Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl, the commission said.
Prescription painkillers and heroin contributed to some 60,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, a 19% surge over the previous year, according to an estimate compiled by the New York Times.