The bar chart above shows the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving opioid drugs from 2002 to 2015. Included in this number are opioid analgesics, along with heroin and illicit synthetic opioids. The chart is overlayed by a line graph show- ing the number of deaths of females and males. From 2002 to 2015 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of deaths.

President declares opioid epidemic a public health emergency

Story by Valerie Brankovic NACo Legislative Assistant

der the Public Service Act. Te administration’s long-planned declaration followed through on a recommendation put forth by the White House Commission on Combating Drug Ad- diction and the Opioid Epidemic, but stopped short of com- mitting new federal funds to the epidemic. Under the Public Health Service Act, a public health emergency declaration en- ables the HHS secretary to waive certain administrative reg- ulations around treatment resources and allow states greater flexibility in using federal dollars to combat a public health crisis. A public health emergency declaration lasts for 90 days and can be renewed by the HHS secretary. Tere are currently 13 localized public health emergencies in effect in response to recent hurricans and the California wildfires. Although it is narrower in scope than a wider federal emer- gency declaration, the White House’s public health emergency declaration is expected to facilitate the following actions: Allow patients to obtain medically-assisted treatment via telemedicine, which could make treatment more accessible for

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n Oct. 26, President Donald Trump directed acting U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Eric Hargan to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency un-

individuals in remote areas; Provide state and federal agencies greater flexibility in hiring substance abuse specialists; Expand eligibility for U.S. Department of Labor Dislocated

Worker Grants to include people with opioid addiction; and Issue guidance on healthcare privacy laws that currently pre-

vent medical providers from sharing medical information with the families of overdose victims. In addition to the above action items, HHS also will be em-

powered to tap into funds available through the congressionally established Public Health Emergency Fund. Te fund’s reserves currently total approximately $57,000. Te president’s opioid commission released its final slate of policy recommendations on Nov. 1. (See page 29 for a summary of recommendations). Te nation’s worsening opioid epidemic has become a leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. Te National Associa- tion of Counties (NACo) will continue to work with Congress and the administration to ensure counties have the resources they require to respond to this urgent public health issue.

Valerie Brankovic joined NACo in 2017 and serves as legis-

lative assistant. She assists with legislative research, writing and federal advocacy efforts on issues including health, human services and education, telecommunications and technology, and justice and public safety.


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