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TN on Front Lines of Opioid Crisis: Trump Declares Public Health Emergency

People working to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee are hopeful the declaration of a public health emergency will clear the way for funding. (frankieleon/flickr)
People working to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee are hopeful the declaration of a public health emergency will clear the way for funding. (frankieleon/flickr)
October 27, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The opioid crisis plaguing states such as Tennessee is officially declared a public health emergency. That announcement on Thursday by President Donald Trump confirms what many have already known about the country's issues with drug addiction.

Supporters hope the announcement clears the way for swift action and funding to help states.

Jessica Nickel, president, and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum, was in Washington for the administration's announcement.

"This is a full-blown crisis," she says. "We're losing 144 people a day to drug overdoses. That's like a plane crash every single day in America for an entire year. Or, put another way, it's like losing a sold-out Yankee Stadium all in one second."

One hitch in the efforts to expand addiction assistance is the fact that there is currently no funding available to support a public health emergency in the federal budget and Congress must take action to make that money available. If it had been declared a public emergency, as Trump hinted he would do in August, Federal Emergency Management funds would be immediately available.

The number of Tennesseans who died from drug overdoses jumped 12 percent between 2015 and 2016.

While the Trump administration indicates a desire for quick action in the opioid crisis, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act could make it difficult for some addicts to access proper care. Nickel says it's something the Addiction Policy Forum is watching.

"The ACA has begun to integrate the treatment of substance-abuse disorders into health care, so we are paying close attention to make sure that any changes to our health-care system do not negatively impact our families and patients that need treatment for addiction," she notes.

On Thursday, Nickel's organization released a four-year plan to address addiction in America. Developed by experts, she says it recommends helping families in crisis, integrating treatment into health care, increasing funding, rethinking how the criminal-justice system deals with addiction, and protecting children affected by the crisis.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN