In 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. Now, he’s presented an initiative outlining how his administration plans to address it.
The Trump opioid initiative could be a significant development for the nation, which is grappling to solve an epidemic of overdoses that have become the leading cause of death in the United States. The plan is broken down in an attempt to address over-prescription, illicit drug supplies, a lack of treatment and recovery services and more.
Understanding Trump’s Opioid Initiative
In a speech given in New Hampshire, Trump presented the major points of his opioid initiative. He touched on efforts to launch a nationwide education campaign, strengthen criminal enforcement and border security, and expand access to addiction treatment and other resources.
Known as the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse, the plan works to address the “driving forces of the opioid crisis.” Published in greater detail in a White House Briefing, the Trump administration also proposes to change how the government pays for opioid prescriptions to limit access to painkillers.
Nationwide Educational Campaign
Reducing Demand through Public Knowledge
The opioid initiative plans to launch a national awareness and prevention campaign to better inform the public. The intention is to reduce demand and improper prescribing through education about the dangers of using opioids.
The administration has also launched a public campaign, Crisis Next Door. The site encourages people who have suffered because opioid abuse to share their stories, whether they had a personal struggle with addiction or helped to support a friend or family member.
The education campaign intends to reduce the over-prescription of opioids, which according to the briefing, has the potential to “lead Americans down a path to addiction.”
Criminal Enforcement & Stricter Border Security
Reducing the Supply
A main point of the plan is law enforcement and interdiction, signaling a crackdown on the dealers and suppliers. It involves using tougher capital punishment for drug traffickers and calling for a lesser amount of drugs needed to invoke mandatory minimum sentences, specifically for those who “distribute certain illicit opioids that are lethal in trace amounts.” One of the most controversial part of the plan involves an approval of the death penalty for certain offenders.
The plan proposes stricter border security to keep opioids from entering the country, with the following provisions:
- Secure land borders, ports of entry, and waterways against illegal smuggling.
- Require advance electronic data for 90 percent of all international mail shipments (with goods) and consignment shipments within three years, in order for the Department of Homeland Security to flag high-risk shipments.
- Identify and inspect high-risk shipments leveraging advanced screening technologies and by using drug-detecting canines.
- Test and identify suspicious substances in high-risk international packages to quickly detect and remove known and emerging illicit drugs before they can cause harm.
- Engage with China and expand cooperation with Mexico to reduce supplies of heroin, other illicit opioids, and precursor chemicals.
Additionally, the plan would allow for the creation of a new task force within the Justice Department, known as the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation (PIL) Task Force. A major aim of the task force would be to monitor and police digital sales of opioids using the following allowances:
- Expand the DOJ Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit’s efforts to prosecute corrupt or criminally negligent doctors, pharmacies, and distributors.
- Aggressively deploy appropriate criminal and civil actions to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for any unlawful practices.
- Shut down illicit opioid sales conducted online and seize any related assets.
- Scale up internet enforcement efforts under DOJ’s new Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team.
Expanded Addiction Treatment
Providing and Developing Recovery Services
The Trump opioid initiative has outlined a number of plans to help people struggling with addiction. It works to expand rehabilitation and other treatment options in a variety of ways, including supplying the powerful overdose reversal agent, naloxone, to first responders and providing funding for opioid tracking to identify hardest hit areas. Another service will be testing people who enter into the criminal justice system and then issuing mandatory treatment, a method likely to be considered to be a compulaory power breach.
It hopes to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions by educating physicians on prescribing info and developing non-addictive options to manage pain, in addition to changing the way Medicaid reimburses residential care facilities. It provides specific support for veterans and their families through the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. It also calls on Congress to change how Medicaid pays for treatment, seeking to make it easier for patients with addictions to get inpatient care
According to the briefing, the Implement a Safer Prescribing Plan intends to achieve the following objectives:
- Cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.
- Ensure that 75 percent of opioid prescriptions reimbursed by Federal health care programs are issued using best practices within three years, and 95 percent within five years.
- Ensure that at least half of all Federally-employed healthcare providers adopt best practices for opioid prescribing within two years, with all of them doing so within five years.
- Leverage Federal funding opportunities related to opioids to ensure that States transition to a nationally interoperable Prescription Drug Monitoring Program network.
The administration plans to fund research and development for creative therapies based on technological advancement, with one proposed idea to develop a vaccine to prevent opioid addiction.
Though it is a controversial plan from a controversial president, the Trump opioid iniative contains clear action items and expands funding for education and treatment.
“Stigma, silence and a lack of information prevent us from confronting this crisis as we should,” President Trump said in his speech on Monday.
“Working together, we will end the stigma of addiction, defeat the opioid epidemic and overcome the crisis next door.”