In a statement released Jan. 22, acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan renewed the “determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide … as a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation.”
When asked if the public health emergency will be renewed every 90 days, HHS did not provide an answer, casting doubt on exactly how long the mandate is expected to last.
Following this report, the White House told ABC News that Weyeneth is planning to leave his post at the end of the month.
“Mr. Weyeneth has decided to depart ONDCP at the end of the month,” said White House spokesperson Raj Shah. It was unclear whether Weyeneth would continue to serve the administration in a different capacity and neither he nor the White House responded to a request for comment about his future employment.
Publicly, Trump and his administration tout an unwavering pledge to curbing the rampant epidemic.
When he made the public health emergency declaration in October, Trump said he would mobilize “every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis” — and even went as far to call the opioid epidemic “the worst drug crisis in American history.”
While the White House insists the opioid crisis is a top priority, lingering questions remain about the urgency of the administration’s response behind the scenes.
Weyeneth is not the only staffing choice that has cast scrutiny on the agency.
Since March, Richard Baum has served as the agency’s acting director, or acting “drug czar,” charged with coordinating the federal response to the crisis. A permanent appointment has not been nominated to serve as director.
ABC News could not be provided with an estimate of the number of staff or vacancies at ONDCP after multiple inquiries to the White House, ONDCP and the Office of Personnel Management.
But staffing isn’t the only lingering question. From its inception, there have been mixed messages about funding for Trump’s opioid order.
At the time of the October announcement, two senior House and Senate Appropriations officials told ABC News the White House had not yet requested additional funding to combat the epidemic.
“President Trump has prioritized this issue by declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency and directing the entire Administration to focus combating this ‘crisis next door’ that affects so many American families across the country,” a White House spokesperson told ABC News.
Adding, “We will continue discussions with Congress on the appropriate level of funding needed to address this crisis.”
An OMB spokesperson said it would not comment on leaked or pre-decisional documents before the budget is released, but OMB press secretary Meghan Burris added, “DOJ and HHS are both major grant management organizations that can look holistically at allocations across law enforcement and drug prevention and treatment resources.”
With concerns over staffing and funding for the administration’s core agency responsible for combatting this crisis, the federal response shows few tangible signs of progress.
But an ONDCP spokesperson said, “The Trump administration will continue to focus its resources to prevent new addictions from developing, and help those already suffering to recover from addiction.”
ABC News’ Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin and Jeffrey Cook contributed to this report.