President Trump plans to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday to declare a limited 90-day public health emergency in response to the deadly opioid epidemic, according to senior administration officials.
But the president, who is scheduled to address the epidemic later Thursday, will stop short of declaring a broader national emergency and will not make any additional federal money available to confront a crisis that last year killed more than 64,000 Americans.
Administration officials say they hope Congress will provide more funding in a spending bill later this year, though officials would not say how much money the White House is seeking.
“This is an urgent priority for the president,” one senior administration official said Thursday.
Trump has been under pressure for months to step up the federal government’s response to the drug epidemic and has been promising since the summer that he would declare an emergency, a technical step that can free up funding and loosen regulations.
The new order will allow some limited new steps, such as allowing patients in rural parts of the country to access medication for addiction treatment through telemedicine, administration officials said.
The order also should allow federal agencies to move around some existing grant money to focus on opioid-addicted patients.
But many public health officials have been urging White House to take more sweeping steps, and the administration’s own opioid task force, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, called this summer for a stronger federal drug strategy.