Engel: Declaring Public Health Emergency for Opioid Epidemic a Step Forward, But Lacks Teeth

Engel: Declaring Public Health Emergency for Opioid Epidemic a Step Forward, But Lacks Teeth

WASHINGTON D.C.— Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a top Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released the following statement on President Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency regarding the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic:

“Today’s declaration is a step forward, but a delayed one that lacks real teeth. Though it is progress, we still cannot let the Administration and Congressional Republicans continue to promote policies that would take us backward.

“We will not successfully combat the opioid epidemic if Republicans continue their crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior to the ACA, more than a third of individual market policies did not cover substance use treatment. Now, thanks to the ACA, coverage of that treatment is guaranteed. Republicans’ ACA repeal bills would have also ended the Medicaid expansion and cut more than $800 billion from the Medicaid program, which has been a lifeline in affording people with substance use disorders access to treatment.

“On top of sabotaging the ACA, Republicans have allowed funding for community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program run dry, allowed cuts to safety net hospitals, and repeatedly failed to allot the funding needed to tackle this emergency head-on. While this declaration is positive, without additional funds to aid medical facilities that are already facing severe Republican cuts, it will not be enough to make a real impact.

“Rhetoric alone will not save lives. Congress must invest the funds needed to respond to the opioid epidemic and support proven public health interventions. This crisis will require real dollars, and I hope the Republican Majority will support the investment needed to turn the tide of this epidemic for good.”