By Pat Anson, Editor
President Trump has decided not to declare a national emergency to combat the opioid crisis, despite a recommendation from a White House commission that he declare an emergency to speed up federal efforts to fight it. The decision was announced just minutes after the president threatened "fire and fury" against North Korea over its nuclear program.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said an emergency declaration wasn’t necessary because the administration was already treating the opioid crisis as an emergency. But he wouldn’t rule it out in the future.
“We believe at this point that the resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president,” Price said at a news conference.
Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs the president's opiod commission, made a personal plea to Trump to declare a national emergency, saying 142 Americans were dying every day from drug overdoses.
“If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will. You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately,” Christie said.
“Our country needs you, Mr. President. We know you care deeply about this issue. We also know that you will use the authority of your office to deal with our nation’s problems.”
President Trump met with First Lady Melania Trump, Secretary Price and other administration officials for a briefing on the overdose crisis at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Gov. Christie was not present.
Trump did not mention a national emergency during the public portion of the briefing, but said drug abuse was a “tremendous problem and we’re going to get it taken care of.” He suggested that law enforcement and abstinence should be used to address it.
“The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don’t start, they won't have a problem. If they do start, it's awfully tough to get off. So we can keep them from going on, and maybe by talking to youth and telling them, ‘No good, really bad for you’ in every way. But if they don’t start, it will never be a problem,” Trump said, according to a White House transcript.
The opioid briefing was quickly overshadowed by the looming crisis with North Korea, when a reporter asked the president about North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said. “He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Neither Trump nor Secretary Price laid out any specific steps to combat the overdose crisis. Price said his department was still “talking about what should be done” and developing a strategy.
Trump said the administration was acting to stop the flow of illegal drugs by being “very, very strong on our southern border and, I would say, the likes of which this country certainly has never seen that kind of strength."