President Trump on Thursday afternoon declared the opioid crisis sweeping America a public health emergency.
The president has long-promised to do something about the crisis that has ravaged the nation and claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. But a public health emergency is not the same as the national emergency the president initially promised to announce in August, and only directs the acting secretary of Health and Human Services, Eric Hargan, to issue a nationwide public health emergency under the Public Service Act. A public health emergency, unlike a national emergency, does not free up additional funding, instead relying on existing funding to be redirected. Declaring a national emergency would free up Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding, public health worker deployment, and state requests for federal aid, among other things.
The declaration only lasts for 90 days, although it can be renewed every 90 days, if the president so desires. But a senior administration official said the Trump administration is working closely with Congress to include further funding for the crisis soon.
It's unclear if the president would declare a national emergency in the future. In an interview with Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Wednesday, the president said he would declare a national emergency on drugs "next week."
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