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Delaware officials react to Pres. Trump's opioid epidemic emergency declaration

Delaware Public Media

President Donald Trump formally declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency Thursday. But he stopped short of issuing a national emergency declaration. That means Delaware and other states won’t get new extra money to fight the epidemic.

The president’s commission on the opioid crisis recommended this summer that Trump declare it a national emergency. That allows states access to federal emergency funding like they would after a natural disaster.

But, he instead issued a public health emergency. While that doesn’t include new money for states, it does give them more flexibility in using federal grants and expands the use of telemedicine.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said she’s concerned the announcement from the Trump administration lacks additional resources to fight the epidemic in Delaware.

“To me, I was disappointed knowing that there would not be extra funds for treatment and prevention and mitigation," she said. "Particularly if we want to stop this pipeline, we need to have not only treatment expansion, but we also need to have prevention and that takes additional funds.”

More than 180 people in Delaware have died of suspected opioid overdoses this year. More than 300 died last year.

Hall-Long said additional federal dollars could have been used by Delaware and other states to treat, prevent and mitigate addiction.

“So, I think we appreciate the fact that there’s recognition that there is an emergency," she said. "But, we’re very disappointed that it was not more comprehensive and that he did not follow the recommendations of his own White House opioid commission.”

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester released a statement calling for Congress to provide states more funding to combact the crisis.

"While I am pleased that the Administration is beginning to address this national epidemic, I strongly believe that more must be done to combat the severity of this issue,” she said. "The human cost is simply too great not to take significant steps toward a comprehensive approach to combat the opioid epidemic.”

In a statement, Sen. Tom Carper blasted the House of Representatives for passing $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid. He said millions of Americans could lose services helping people with substance abuse issues.

"Americans are relying on us to put politics aside to fight this epidemic with everything we’ve got," he said. "I urge my colleagues to recognize the vitally important role Medicaid and federal and state governments play in this fight. We need to be working together to ensure our health care providers and law enforcement officials have the resources they need to stop this epidemic and save lives.”

Delaware has created the Behavioral Health Consortium and the Addiction Action Committee to address substance abuse and mental health. Hall-Long said many people suffer from both addiction and mental illness.

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