President Trump is now calling the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. This could be wrong. Many would argue that instead of a public health emergency, the opioid epidemic is a state of emergency. You might think that this is merely a matter of semantics but it is not. A state of emergency and a public health emergency are two very different classifications. It is important to understand what these classifications mean in order to fully comprehend what the dilemma is.
A public health emergency falls under the Public Health Services Act, which allows extra resources and emergency mandates to be allocated for resolving a health crisis. This is useful for resolving the strain on healthcare during a mass shooting or a pandemic. Calling the opioid epidemic a public health emergency essentially:
- Would speed up the training and hiring of healthcare workers who deal with opioid addictions and their treatment
- Open up funding for research into new methods of dealing with the opioid addiction crisis and all its aspects such as telemedicine in rural areas
- Offer grants for those who have been affected by the opioid epidemic so that they can seek employment.
It could give those who are laboring under opioid addiction new resources, treatments, and prospects. Some people believe these remedies are not enough.
They believe that declaring the opioid epidemic a state of emergency is warranted. A state of emergency is different in that it falls under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This act allows for the opioid epidemic to pull funding and resources from a number of agencies. It is a basic statement that the healthcare system alone cannot handle the opioid epidemic.
Under a state of emergency, the people who are affected by the opioid epidemic would have access to many resources over a year rather than the 90 days that usually fall under a public health emergency. It could essentially:
- Increase access to opioid related medications such as naloxone, methadone, and Suboxone
- End incarceration of addicts for many nonviolent offenses
- Pull funding from a vast variety of resources for new treatments and other programs
- Widen the supports that opioid addicts have
A state of emergency broadens the resources and the scope of what can be done for opioid addicts.
While you might think that a state of emergency would be better than a public health emergency, you have to look at what other states of emergency there are. Hurricanes, natural disasters of all kinds, and terrorist acts, and generally provides funding for all other crisis situations. There is a finite amount of funding. A state of emergency often puts a strain on the economy and its resources.
The question then becomes, with only a small percentage of the actual population affected by opioid addiction, is a state of emergency really warranted or can the healthcare system function to help provide access to resources such as Addictions.com? Regardless of which act the opioid epidemic falls under, help is available to those who suffer from this devastating addiction.