Ohio leaders react to Trump declaring opioid crisis ‘an emergency’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

President declares emergency

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

President Donald Trump declared the nation’s opioid crisis “an emergency” on Thursday.

“The opioid crisis is an emergency. And I am saying officially right now: It is an emergency, it’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters during a brief question-and-answer session ahead of a security briefing Thursday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Ohio leaders react

Ohio lawmakers – regardless of political party - expressed nearly universal applause for the decision.

ExploreRELATED: 5 key events that spurred Ohio’s opioid epidemic

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who spent Thursday morning at a Chillicothe treatment facility and who last year successfully pushed for a comprehensive bill to address the problem, praised Trump for declaring the epidemic a national emergency.

“There is no doubt that this heroin and prescription drug epidemic is a crisis affecting our entire country, and I applaud the president for his decision to declare it a national emergency,” he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he hopes the designation will spur the administration to work quickly to address the epidemic.

“Communities across Ohio don’t need a declaration to tell them the opioid crisis is an emergency,” he said.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, called it a “good step to provide potentially life-saving relief to the millions of Americans suffering from this crisis.”

ExploreOPIOID CRISIS: How did we get here?

“Ohio is the epicenter of this crisis, and I know many families will welcome the lifeline of funding that this action will bring,” she said, adding that Medicaid is “a key partner” in helping address the epidemic.

Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, meanwhile, said he remains committed to working to address the crisis. “I believe the opioid epidemic is a national emergency, and the key is what we do moving forward to address the issue,” he said.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, was the lone critic, saying he was “alarmed at what appears to be a dangerously uncoordinated response to the emergency unfolding in front of our eyes.”

“The President must formally issue this order as soon as possible, and Republicans in Congress must move swiftly to appropriate federal funding to the Public Health Emergency Fund,” Ryan said. “The American people demand that the President and Congress rise to this occasion without delay.”

Ohio gubernatorial candidates also got in on the act.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, applauded the decision but said “this is only a start,” and called for Trump to “make a genuine commitment to addressing this epidemic.”

“That includes holding the big drug companies accountable. He cannot simply give lip service to the Americans who are dying and the families who are suffering because the heroin epidemic was largely created by drug companies,” Whaley said.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said Trump “showed decisive leadership” by declaring the epidemic a national emergency. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, also a Republican, issued a statement saying the additional federal resources “will help hard-hit states like Ohio.

Commission formed

A drug commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing crisis. An initial report from the commission noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

Trump received a briefing on the report earlier this week during his 17-day working vacation in New Jersey.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price seemed to suggest after that briefing that the president was leaning against the recommendation, arguing that the administration could deploy the necessary resources and attention to deal with the crisis without declaring a national emergency.

Still, Price stressed that “all things” were “on the table for the president.”

Jill Covin and Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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