What the Opioid Emergency Declaration Means for California

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency Thursday, but stopped short of issuing a national disaster declaration that would have included immediate federal funding to states battling the crisis. Advocates lauded the move as a good “first step” in combatting the scourge of opioid addiction, but said more will be needed to stamp out the heinous affliction affecting 2.4 million people and their families.

One thing the order does do is suspend a rule preventing Medicaid from funding many drug rehabilitation facilities. It will make it easier for doctors to provide medications used in drug treatment withdrawl; allow DHS to redirect some of its resources to help combat drugs; instruct agencies to lift some of the red tape standing in the way of federal grant money; expand telemedicine in rural areas; and crack down on the deadly opioid Fentanyl.

The declaration is effective for 90 days but can be extended.

Thursday’s order hits home for a number of Californians. While the opioid crisis has been concentrated in states like Ohio, West Virginia and New Hampshire, there were more than 183,000 opioid-related deaths in California from 1999 to 2015. The northwest and Central Valley have been particularly hard-hit. You can check out a breakdown of opioid prescriptions by county here

Though critics quickly slammed Trump’s declaration for not going far enough, Kathryn Casteel at FiveThirtyEight argues that it could still have a significant impact on the rural areas where opioids have become so ubiquitous and destructive. That includes many parts of California.

“The emergency declaration could open up more access to treatment in rural areas, where resources to combat the opioid crisis are limited,” she writes, “by providing more buprenorphine waivers to doctors, crucially for those who may not be attached to an addiction center.”



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