Despite recommendations by his own task force to declare a“national emergency” to help combat the opioid epidemic, the Trumpadministration’s approach to the problem appears instead to be areliance on previously less-than-effective efforts to urge peopleto abstain from opioid use and impose longer, harsher prison termsfor those who succumb.

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The administration disregarded the “urgent recommendation” ofthe President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and theOpioid Crisis. Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary, saidthat it could be tackled without resorting to invoking emergencypowers.

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In its preliminary report issued last week, thefive-member panel described the death toll from opioids as“September 11th every three weeks.” It also urged the president toimmediately “declare a national emergency under either the PublicHealth Service Act or the Stafford Act.”

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But according to a report in the Washington Post, Trump toldreporters attending what was billed as a “major briefing” on thecrisis at his Bedminster golf course that the “best way to preventdrug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugsin the first place.”

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“If they don’t start, they won’t have a problem. If they dostart, it’s awfully tough to get off,” he told reporters at theprivate course’s clubhouse. “So if we can keep them from going on —and maybe by talking to youth and telling them: ‘No good, reallybad for you in every way.’ But if they don’t start, it will neverbe a problem.”

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He focused more on drug dealers and the implied failure of theObama administration to halt the flow of drugs into the country,and, according to a report in Politico, his determination to fightthe crisis with “strong law enforcement.” A Reuters report pointed out that he offered “no newsteps” to “win the fight” against the epidemic.

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However, according to a Huffington Post report, Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorneygeneral, has come down firmly on the side of “aggressive actionfrom police and prosecutors” as a way to control the epidemic.Prevention and treatment come in lower on the list, particularly inthe Trump budget, which would cut the funding for the Office of NationalDrug Control Policy, the agency leading the response to theopioid epidemic, by 95 percent.

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