Hoeven: President Declares Opioid Abuse Epidemic a Nationwide Public Health Emergency

Senator Working to Address Drug Trafficking, Support Opioid Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after the President declared the opioid abuse epidemic a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. The declaration, which comes at the recommendation of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis that he convened in March, helps mobilize the resources of the administration to address widespread opioid abuse. This action dovetails with Hoeven’s work to ensure health care providers and law enforcement have the tools they need to prevent and treat opioid abuse, address drug trafficking and assist those in recovery. 

“Opioid abuse is the cause of great loss and heartache for too many families and a terrible strain on our communities,” Hoeven said. “Action has been taken by Congress and across the administration to address this crisis, and today’s declaration is another important step to help reduce the incidence of opioid abuse and drug overdose. At the same time, we continue working in Congress to pass additional legislation and provide the necessary funding to adequately address this crisis, make services available to those who are struggling with opioid abuse and prevent drug trafficking.”

Specifically, today’s declaration:

  • Allows for expanded access to telemedicine services, including treatment of mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Helps overcome bureaucratic delays in the hiring process at the Department of Health and Human Services by allowing the temporary appointment of specialists needed to respond to the opioid abuse crisis.
  • Allows the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to those displaced from the workforce due to opioid abuse.
  • Addresses the risks of HIV transmission associated with substance abuse by allowing individuals eligible for federal HIV/AIDS programs to receive substance abuse treatment. 

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, and North Dakota is one of 14 states identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as experiencing a significant increase in drug overdose deaths from 2013 and 2014. In response, Hoeven has been working to support the efforts of local groups, like the Fargo metro area’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Addiction, and secure funding and legislation to help prevent and treat addiction. This includes: 

  • Opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery funding passed as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. Earlier this year, North Dakota received $2 million in funding to help fight opioid abuse, the first year of funding under the legislation. 
  • Hoeven’s Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act, legislation he recently reintroduced that closes a loophole that enables companies to circumvent the law and sell synthetic variations of drugs, like the powerful drug fentanyl, by labeling the products as “not for human consumption.”
  • Expanded prevention and education efforts in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, bipartisan legislation that passed in July 2016. This legislation helps combat the prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic by expanding prevention efforts, supporting law enforcement, and improving and expanding access to treatment and recovery services for individuals who have a substance use disorder.
  • Working to prevent deadly illicit fentanyl from entering the U.S. by cosponsoring the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would require shipments from foreign countries sent through the U.S. Postal Service to provide electronic data. This will assist Customs and Border Patrol to better target potential illegal substances like fentanyl and prevent it from being shipped into the country.