U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today requesting an independent review of the actions taken by the administration to address the opioid epidemic since he declared it a public health emergency.
President Trump directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Oct. 26, 2017. Despite that declaration, the administration has yet to officially allocate new funds to address the crisis and, instead, has proposed funding cuts to several agencies responding to the crisis.
“Given the severity of the crisis, we have grown increasingly concerned by reports that the President has done little to make use of his public health emergency declaration, leaving state and local communities without the resources they need to fight the opioid epidemic,” the senators wrote. “Despite saying it would work with Congress, the White House has put forward no proposals for authorizing new funding.”
To ensure the federal government is utilizing all resources available, the senators have asked the GAO to review, specifically, what resources are available to the executive branch and what steps they have taken to combat the opioid crisis since declaring the crisis a public health emergency.
An estimated 2.6 million Americans suffer from opioid use disorder and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses in 2016. In Florida alone, more than 5,200 people have died from an opioid-related event in 2016 – a 35 percent increase from the year before.
The president’s initial emergency declaration expired on Jan. 23, 2018. On Jan. 24, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan extended the emergency for another 90 days.
In addition to Nelson, the letter was signed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
A copy of the lawmakers’ letter is here.