Opioid commission member calls for other emergency status

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy is calling for an overarching response to the opioid crisis.

The former legislator, who battled with addictions ranging from OxyContin to cocaine, called on senators to have all layers of government respond, rather than just have a couple of agency budgets increase.

The White House stated in October as part of the emergency declaration that more than $1 billion in funding has been allocated or spent directly addressing the drug addiction and opioid crisis since Trump took office.

“All aspects of government need to be called in,” Kennedy said at a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing, “Addressing the Opioid Crisis in America: Prevention, Treatment & Recovery.”

“This is something that has to be done across all agencies that may not even understand how and what impact they have in helping” people trying to recover, Kennedy said.

He repeatedly urged the Trump administration to declare an emergency under the Stafford disaster act, advice given in the opioid commission’s final report. The Stafford act provides relief during disasters and emergencies, and Kennedy said this would get additional dollars that won’t come from the normal appropriations process.

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Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz said the administration looked at that designation and decided a public health emergency was the best route to go. She said based on her understanding, the designation is usually reserved for geographic types of disasters, which the opioid epidemic is not.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, told federal officials it’s worth continuing to look into the measure.

The subcommittee’s chairman, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said during opening remarks that he appreciates the president’s focus on the problem. Blunt added that there’s no silver bullet to solve the crisis.