“The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act,” wrote the committee, which is led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in its interim report released on Monday.
“Our nation is in a crisis,” said the report. “Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it. The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined.”
Gov. Christie led a public conference call with the commission on Monday to discuss their findings and vote on their interim report. Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts was not able to join Christie, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D. on the call but the members present voted unanimously to move their report forward.
The report underscores the grim toll being taken by the crisis, saying that with the 142 deaths per day blamed on opioids, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
The idea quickly gained support from Sen. Joe Manchin, whose constituents have been among the hardest hit.
“When I’m on the ground in my home state of West Virginia and when I hear the stories of those struggling with opioid addiction it’s obvious our country is in crisis,” Manchin said in a statement. “Declaring a national emergency will allow the Administration and Congress to act with the immediacy that’s needed to end this epidemic.
The commission hopes that by declaring a national emergency, the federal government will be able to do things like negotiate pricing on naloxone for governmental units and grant waivers to states to increase treatment availability.
Other recommendations in the report include mandating prescriber education initiatives, equipping more members of law enforcement with naloxone, developing ways to detect fentanyl, and combating the stigma that is often associated with addiction.
One member of the commission, former congressman Patrick Kennedy, has been outspoken about both his struggles with addiction and his passion…