WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday that he was drafting paperwork to officially declare the country’s worsening epidemic of opioid overdoses a national emergency, accepting the urgent recommendation from a national commission that he appointed.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Mr. Trump told reporters before a security briefing at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “It’s a national emergency.”
The president’s commission, which is led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mr. Trump’s one-time presidential rival, said last month that such a declaration was its “first and most urgent recommendation,” concluding that it would help direct more resources and attention on the crisis plaguing communities across the country.
But just two days ago, Mr. Trump’s top health care official had played down the likelihood of an emergency declaration. Tom Price, the secretary of Health and Human Services, told reporters that the crisis “can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president.”
In the last 48 hours, Mr. Trump has come under criticism from Democrats, who accused him of failing to adequately respond to the growing number of overdoses. A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee said the president had “done nothing” for the people affected by the drug crisis.
In his statement to reporters, Mr. Trump made it clear that he intended to issue a formal declaration that the opioid crisis was a national emergency, much the way the federal government officially recognizes the need for a national response to natural disasters.
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