POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Christie defends president’s opioid crisis declaration

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Critics in the substance abuse treatment community Friday continued to find fault with Donald Trump’s approach to solving the nation’s opioid epidemic. The president declared a temporary public health emergency that included no extra federal funding. Trump promised treatment, but emphasized anti-drug education.

“The president’s announcement is really disgraceful,” said Meagan Glaser, deputy state director of Drug Policy Alliance‘s New Jersey office.

“If we can teach young people and people generally not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them. And I think that’s going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising,” said Trump.

“And we’re talking about an advertising campaign like, ‘Just Say No,’ which has years of evidence showing that it doesn’t work. It’s beyond disappointing for the people and families here in New Jersey and across the country who are really awaiting a plan with details and money attached to address the opioid crisis,” Glaser continued.

Some advocates had hoped that instead of a public health emergency, the president would’ve declared a national emergency under the Stafford Act to trigger the immediate release of FEMA-style disaster relief funding.

“I think there was concern it didn’t do far enough. That perhaps, a national emergency would’ve been able to provide additional resources that may not be provided in the announcement that was made yesterday,” said Executive Director of Partnership for a Drug-Free NJ Angelo Valente.

Moreover, the Public Health Emergency Fund currently contains only $57,000, while the Disaster Relief Fund’s got $3.3 billion. But Gov. Chris Christie defended Trump for not choosing to fund the opioid emergency with disaster relief money.

“You’ve got three ongoing disasters: Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. And the idea that we should be competing with those places for money, I think, is wrong. I think that’s why the president made the choice he did. Two separate pots of money,” Christie argued.

The governor says funding will come from Congress.

“The president is very, very committed to this. He has told the Congress he wants more money. And now they’ll get into the business of negotiating how much more money and it will be part of the overall budget deal that will be passed as they’re working towards the end of the year,” said Christie.

Christie chairs the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, but he says it won’t request a specific amount of funding to accomplish its mission.

“In terms of the appropriations, I’m not an expert on what each of these things will cost. But we know what needs to be done to fix the problem,” said Christie.

Details will certainly accompany the Opioid Commission’s report next week. But money, at the discretion of Congress, will take weeks or months to follow.