By declaring the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, this past week President Trump joined the millions of voices who cry out from the heartbreak of addiction, who mourn lost lives, and who witness the insidious nature of this disease’s impact on our families and communities.

We can debate whether or not this initiative leverages the full scope of governmental authority to support this crisis. For this, I will defer to my more politically savvy friends. Instead, I remain grateful that our government has symbolically lent its voice to this cause. I am reminded of a recent Aspenti community initiative at the Burlington Airport in which we acknowledge that “the only choice in addiction is how we choose to address it together.”

Through this designation, President Trump identified some key avenues for governmental support and focus. These include:

– Directing additional grant funding to support opioid-related work
– Prevention advocacy for youth
– Expanding treatment access to rural settings via telemedicine
– Supporting additional safe prescribing practices
– Increase Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment for those with HIV/AIDS
– Encouraging further initiatives centered on alternative, nonaddictive pain medication
– Thwarting fentanyl influx into the US from foreign sources
– Expanding Medicaid funding to certain treatment centers

There are many ways in which the government could choose to exert its influence such as safe and sober housing, gainful employment, or advocacy for medication-assisted treatment. The strategies outlined by President Trump include a few particularly impactful steps including an emphasis on rural access and increased surveillance for fentanyl importation. In addition to limited funding left in the budget this year, all public health emergencies expire in 90 days. With farther-reaching initiatives such as support for the development of nonaddictive pain medications, let us hope for a continued commitment to this work and ongoing renewals to this public health emergency designation.

Nonetheless, these initiatives represent first, albeit small, steps in the march towards conquering this disease as an individual, a family, a community and a nation.

References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/us/politics/trump-opioid-crisis.html, accessed 10/27/17

Jill Warrington MD, PhD

Chief Medical Officer, Aspenti Health™ and Clinical faculty, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.