President Trump's declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency is a positive step by the current administration to confront and help mitigate America's growing opioid epidemic. While Trump has not yet offered up specific details of what this declaration entails, he suggested that there would be more federal funding available for drug treatment and recovery. For instance, writes Matt Ford in The Atlantic, federal disaster funds may now be available for communities affected by opioids, and federal agencies may now be allowed to waive some regulations and rules to respond more quickly. This is a welcome turnaround by an administration who, earlier this week, had refused to recognize the extent of the damage of the growing drug problem.
While many in the medical community are applauding President Trump's decision to categorize the opioid crisis as a national emergency, others are rightly very concerned about this new declaration. For instance, Greg Allen argues in NPR News, the new status could lead to heightened enforcement of and harsher penalties for those struggling with other addiction. Even worse, as what happened during the 1980s crack epidemic, there are fears that excessive drug sentencing laws could be passed in Congress and communities of color could be targeted and impacted disproportionately. While declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency will help toward enhanced treatement, America should be careful in considering the language and penalties that will come about because of it.