HHS in a notice Friday extended a public health emergency declaration regarding the U.S. opioid misuse.
Background: Public health emergency declaration details
President Trump in October 2017 signed a presidential memorandum directing HHS to declare the U.S. opioid misuse epidemic a public health emergency. The memorandum did not provide or request any new funding to combat the crisis.
The declaration, which was scheduled to expire Tuesday, gives the Trump administration additional authority to allocate federal, state, and private resources. For instance, the declaration:
- Allows the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help those who are unemployed because of the opioid misuse epidemic;
- Allows HHS and states to shift resources for HIV/AIDS programs to help individuals eligible for those programs access substance use disorder treatment;
- Allows HHS to quickly hire temporary specialists to address the crisis;
- Allows HHS to draw from the Public Health Emergency Fund to help address the crisis—though USA Today in October reported that Bill Hall, a deputy assistant secretary of Health, said the fund had just $57,000; and
- Expands access to telemedicine services for opioid misuse and mental health treatment.
Acting Secretary Eric Hargan on Friday signed a 90-day extension of the emergency declaration. The extension takes effect Wednesday and lasts until April 23.
The White House in a statement said, "By declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency, the President has used the bully pulpit to bring national attention of this critical issue to not only everyday Americans, but also Members of Congress, state and local officials, and his entire executive branch, who have the necessary tools and authorities within their agencies to address this crisis."
Mike Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said, "We are hopeful the administration and Congress will use this renewal to focus on getting new dollars to states to scale up treatment, recovery, and prevention programs"
Meanwhile, about 50 members of the House's Bipartisan Heroin Task Force in a letter to Trump on Friday said, "While it is important for this declaration to be renewed to allow for maximum federal flexibility to combat this epidemic, cooperation with Congress to provide the necessary funding to properly support such an emergency declaration is vital." They added, "We urge you to work with Congress to advance additional funding as part of fiscal year 2018 budget negotiations as well as the inclusion of emergency supplemental funding for any continuing resolution"(Ehley, Politico, 1/19; Roubein, The Hill, 1/19).
Next: How to combat the opioid epidemic
Opioid misuse and abuse is one of the most pressing public health issues in the U.S., and hospitals and health systems are on the front lines. Currently, most health systems focus their opioid management efforts on select medical specialties.
This report outlines three imperatives to guide hospitals and health systems in their efforts to reduce the impact of inappropriate opioid prescribing and misuse.