Trump spoke at an event he had billed as a "major briefing" on the
opioid crisis during a two-week "working vacation" at his private
golf club in New Jersey. He also used the appearance to unexpectedly
issue a stern warning to North Korea over its threats to the United
The Republican president said the United States has no alternative
but to stem spreading opioid use, but more than six months into his
presidency announced no new policies to combat a public health
crisis that kills more than 100 Americans daily.
"I'm confidant that by working with our healthcare and law
enforcement experts we will fight this deadly epidemic and the
United States will win," Trump told reporters. "We're also very,
very tough on the southern border where much of this comes in, and
we're talking to China, where certain forms of man-made drug comes
in, and it is bad."
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the
administration was still working to devise "a comprehensive
strategy" to be presented to Trump "in the near future."
A commission created by Trump to study opioid abuse urged him last
week to declare a national emergency to address what it called an
opioids crisis, framing its death toll in the context of the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks on the United States. An emergency declaration
could free up federal resources for the effort.
"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 told a later news briefing.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
opioids were involved in more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015, the
latest year for which data is available, and estimates show the
death rate has continued rising.
The commission, headed by Republican New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie, recommended steps such as waiving a federal rule that
restricts the number of people who can get residential addiction
treatment under the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor and
The commission cited government data showing that since 1999 U.S.
opioid overdoses have quadrupled, adding that nearly two thirds of
U.S. drug overdoses were linked to opioids such as heroin and the
powerful painkillers Percocet, OxyContin and fentanyl.
'THE LOSING SIDE'
Speaking alongside Price, White House senior counselor Kellyanne
Conway said, "We are a nation that consumes legal and illegal drugs
at a very high and alarming rate. The problem is very complicated,
and currently we are on the losing side of this war."
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Conway said the crisis cannot be solved overnight, and that "most of
the great work is being done at the state and local levels." Conway
called it a "nonpartisan issue in search of bipartisan support and
Even before Trump's event, the Democratic National Committee slammed
him, with spokesman Daniel Wessel saying in a statement: "Trump
promised he'd come to the aid of communities ravaged by the opioid
epidemic, but so far he's done nothing for them."
Trump's initial federal budget called for a 2 percent increase in
drug treatment programs and would provide funds to increase border
security to stop the flow of drugs into the country.
Substance abuse treatment activists have criticized his proposed
cuts to federal prevention and research programs as well as his
calls to shrink Medicaid, which covers drug treatment for hundreds
of thousands of Americans.
Officials from New Hampshire criticized Trump last week after a
leaked transcript of a January conversation with Mexican President
Enrique Pena Nieto showed Trump had called the New England state,
hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, a "drug-infested den."
New Hampshire sued OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP on Tuesday,
joining several state and local governments in accusing the
drugmaker of engaging in deceptive marketing practices that helped
fuel opioid addiction.
The lawsuit followed similar ones against Purdue and other
drugmakers by Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri and several
cities and counties in California, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee
and New York.
Price said Trump's administration was taking no position on such
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and James Oliphant; Additional reporting
by Eric Beech, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Susan Cornwell; Writing by
Alistair Bell and Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Will Dunham)
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