In ringing terms, President Trump on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency—a step that won't bring new dollars to fight a scourge that kills nearly 100 Americans a day but will expand access to medical services in rural areas, among other changes, per the AP. “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue," Trump said at the White House. "It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.” The declaration falls short of a more sweeping "national emergency," but administration officials said it will still allow them to use existing money to better fight the crisis. Trump's audience Thursday included parents who have lost children to drug overdoses, people who have struggled with addiction, and first responders whose have used overdose reversal drugs to save lives.
In his speech, Trump spoke personally about his own family's experience with addiction: His older brother, Fred Jr., died after struggling with alcoholism—the reason the president does not drink. Trump described his brother as a "great guy, best looking guy," with a personality "much better than mine." But "he had a problem," and "I learned because of Fred." Trump said he hoped a massive advertising campaign, which sounded reminiscent of the 1980s "Just Say No" campaign, might have a similar impact. "If we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take 'em," he said. Chris Christie, who led the president's opioids committee, said Trump was taking "bold action" that shows "an unprecedented commitment to fighting this epidemic." Nancy Pelosi, by contrast, called the declaration "words without the money."