WASHINGTON, D.C. - President
Trump on Oct. 26 officially declared that the opioid crisis engulfing the
United States to be a public health crisis. This act followed a recommendation
from the June 2017 interim report from President's
Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which strongly
recommended that the opioid crisis be declared an emergency.
Given that opioid-related deaths (64,000) in this country
exceed gun violence and automobile deaths combined, NASW feels the declaration
NASW and many other drug policy advocates have long held
that-both nationally and internationally-there needs to be a public health approach,
as opposed to an emphasis on criminal justice, to dealing with drug epidemics.
Epidemiologically, addictions to legal and illicit drugs follow similar
population-based patterns as other chronic life threatening medical conditions.
Therefore, it is essential that the nation engages in a public health
mobilization and prevention and treatment planning as we have for similar
national health crises such as HIV, diabetes or heart disease.
We agree that public health models are specifically designed
to manage epidemics that threaten many people. Additionally, these models are
designed to address related population-based social determinants of health that
encompass the risk-factors for opioid abuse. Because the current drug epidemic
penetrates such a wide array of demographic and geographical populations, the
administration correctly decided to turn to federal and state public health
officials who have the infrastructure, expertise and tools to jointly
coordinate a national response and save lives.
We would have hoped that President Trump had committed
additional federal funds to fight this battle. For example, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug
Addiction recommended that the president declare an emergency under the Stafford
Act . This would have given him the legal authority to allocate federal
funds like what is done for natural disaster such as hurricanes.
However, even with the absence of a commitment of new
funding, NASW believes that the opioid crisis is such a threat to communities
throughout the United States; we support President Trump’s decision to declare
a public health emergency. NASW will encourage social workers to lend their skills
and join the interdisciplinary workforce required in responding to the
For more information contact NASW Social Justice and Human Rights Manager Mel Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.