Pubdate: Tue, 29 Aug 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Author: Nicholas Pugliese


Gov. Chris Christie is growing impatient with the Trump administration
over its delay in declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency.

Christie said during an interview with MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes on
Tuesday night that too many lives are being lost to drug overdoses for
a formal declaration to wait any longer.

"I think it's time for the president and White House staff to get on
this and for the president to demand that they get the papers in front
of him so he can sign it," Christie said.

Trump on Aug. 10 embraced the top recommendation of a Christie-led
opioid commission and said "we are drawing documents now" to
officially label the crisis a national emergency, a formal action that
would have both symbolic and legal power.

But despite Trump's pledge to spend "a lot of time, a lot of effort
and a lot of money" combating the epidemic, no declaration has been
signed nearly three weeks later.

As the opioid commission noted in an interim report released last
month, an estimated 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose.

"When a 9-11 is happening every three weeks in our country, it's an
emergency," Christie said Tuesday.

The commission recommended that Trump declare a public health
emergency using one of two legal routes -- either the Public Health
Service Act or the Stafford Act.

Under the former, the administration is given emergency powers that
would allow it to suspend or modify certain legal requirements and
spend available funds to address the emergency, according to the
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Under the
latter, federal funds and resources would be freed up to help states
provide emergency services, according to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency.

Christie said Tuesday that "there's a lot of debate inside the
administration about which way to do it," highlighting a tension over
the issue that has surfaced before.

Just two days prior to Trump's Aug. 10 statement, Tom Price, the
Health and Human Services secretary, had said that declaring a public
health emergency might not be necessary at all. Such declarations, he
said, have historically been declared for specific, time-sensitive
problems such as the Zika virus and Superstorm Sandy.

"We believe that, 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
the time.

Christie on Tuesday stressed the urgency behind not only the emergency
declaration but also other recommendations made by the commission,
including revising laws to allow all law enforcement officers to carry
the opioid antidote naloxone, expanding access to medication-assisted
treatment and granting Medicaid waivers to all 50 states to free up
beds in treatment facilities.

"I have made it very clear to my friend the president," Christie said,
"we need to get moving on this."

Christie also spoke with Hayes about Hurricane Harvey, Trump's pardon
of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the president's habit
of telling "untruths." The interview is posted online in two segments
here and here.
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