President Trump declares opioid crisis a 'public health emergency'

ABC News' David Wright is joined by senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, MaryAlice Parks and Geneva Sands to break down the announcement from the White House and the implications it will have for combating the opioid addiction epidemic.
14:27 | 10/26/17

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Transcript for President Trump declares opioid crisis a 'public health emergency'
President trump. Making it official there signing his name to an official order declaring the Oprah you would crisis to be a national public health emergency. The president joined there by families of people who have lost family members to the drug crisis. He has spoke of this as a national shame and a human tragedy. Invoking his brother Fred trump. Who died prematurely because of complications from alcoholism. He connected the OP oil crisis up to his favorite themes of immigration in the border saying that he will raise this issue. With China and next week on his Asian trip. And also saying that this is part and parcel of his effort to tighten the borders here at home he talked about new regulations. And he talked also about the need to help people who are hooked. And the need to help prevent people from getting hooked joining us to make sense of all of this are several ABC news contributors among them ABC's Mary Alice park she works for the politically unit. Also on the phone is doctor Jan asked in the chief medical correspondent. Mary Alice first to you this has been something that president trump has been talking about on the campaign trail for quite some time hasn't it. Absolutely you know I Charles a lot can change house while and I was struck out a fact that this issue came up. Every single place we went from Boston to Seattle next specially in rural parts of the country West Virginia. Rural remote. New Hampshire it's part of the reason you saw so many governors there in the room with the president this is an issue that came up. Nonstop. On the campaign trail and I think you saw the president really. Took to heart was incredibly. And pathetic but in that speech you said talking about his own Stanley and made a point of making sure that people understand how serious it was taken grades stand. I've witnessed for a moment Mary announcement I want to go to ABC's senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega who joins us by telephone Cecilia he declare this to BN national. Public health emergency. What does that mean. Well that you know there's a little bit of controversy over this perhaps not surprising David the president had for months. They saying that he would declare this as national health emergency. And and it fact that it. Partly what his own commission on hope to its recommended that he's fallen short of going to. All the way bear out but but his commission also gave him the option of declaring that the public health emergency took. A big picture what did god will just talk about a couple of fake to freeze up some of the bureaucracy in terms of grant money to. The clinics and things like that it helps overcome. A number of bureaucratic delays and things like hiring specialists to treat addiction. Out are in very specific ways this is going to duke expand access to treatment for patients in and rural areas for example these patients will be allowed kept. Used to telemedicine the Internet in the fall to reach a doctor to help them with prescriptions for addiction. But what it doesn't deal with it doesn't increase funding. The White House eater telling us that they hope congress. Pick that up down the road it it you know in in the big picture it's unclear. Really elected will do on the ground what it will actually tree achieved on the experts many of them say that this is largely symbolic but nonetheless this is being widely applauded as a big move. Albeit symbolic by the White House because it creek that sense of urgency for a problem that you and I both know we've covered this issue is very much a national crisis we're talking about a 140. Two deaths a day this country an open letter to blame for that. As the president said there are more deaths from OP lords in this country than from. Motor vehicles and gun violence combined. And yet as you point out there's some question here about the commitment of money the public health emergency fund I read. Now stands at 57000. Dollars the current budget for the Health and Human Services Department would cut funding. To that department so there's some question here isn't there about the commitment of money. It's exactly those pointing deed and not just that lets not forget that there is no drug czar in his administration right now there is no director of the health and human services. Department not and and as you were saying a this comes. As this administration has pushed for unprecedented. Cuts. And federal aid to states for Medicaid programs and Medicaid has. Has proven to be what are the most effective tools in combating opium addiction. Those are the big questions that are out there right now but I do I do have to go back to what we have you heard universally. From doctors and from addiction specialist who say. If it is unclear how much people actually do in terms of can have in terms of tangible effects but really. Even if this is symbolic. People are very in this industry and and in this community very very happy to beat. Did this priority is patient. OP ladies and and the crisis in this country as as a top priority from Washington right now. ABC's Cecilia Vega thank you so much for joining us you gotta get under world news and we look forward to your report tonight. Let's move along now to doctor Jan Ashton who is joining us by telephone she's ABC's senior. Met our stories chief. Medical correspondent hi John. I gave it so it what is your sense of what's needed here. Well you know let me take you behind the scenes could I want to pick up on a couple of points that it's Jillian made about. You know what's going on on the federal level and what's going on in the trenches to its eco. I want to share it with our viewers that our listeners you know I'm a practicing physician I mean a private practice and every year. And three health care provider with a prescription pads that has. I DEA number and a controlled dangerous substance to coach CBS late and number has to be new dilute the latent in the court yet it's paid for that. But in many cases behalf do you I'd hate some new CME's continuing medical education and answer some questions that better. I just completed my literally yesterday up from my violations annual which is due to the end of this month. And I had to answer. Question about well you Lloyd than we have to register in the eight security. As a physician who describe who had prescribed. Class of medication. And it tell you how pervasive this approach in this attack it is. This is absolutely. Affecting change at the health care provider prescribe or level. Which I think is a good thing because let's face a lot of health care. Professional to prescribe these medications aren't doing it because they want someone to become an addict. They're doing it because. Twenty years ago in medical school or thirty years ago in medical school that was the only class of pain medication. That those providers knew about so we education. Needs to occur at pharmaceutical development I was happy here the president mention that. That apps. We need to occur but I also want to address something that often and at a forgotten voice in this. In this debate in this crisis which is the millions and millions of Americans who live and suffer from chronic pain. And they are so you're all. That there will be an over compensation of backlash. You know to an over extreme that will affect them getting some kind of pain relief whether it is from the proper use a populated. You know in some cases or with other things I think that is a very real here and we need to remember in the medical profession action. That that goal is treating pain pickle if not to withhold. Pain relief. From a patient but I will tell you as. Crap and I got a pharmacology award at my graduating medical school classic Columbia. We need a much. Better class of medications that will be like her pain it has never been and I deal and now of course being you know that not only is that not right Yelp of pain. In many cases but it does lead to addiction and dat so I was very very happy even at this with the formality Dijjer this. Coming from the top down as well as the bottom up. As you point out there that some of the new regulations. He propose there are. Making some supplies of pills seven day only supplies that really tricky. For somebody being prescribed pain medication we also talked about taking particular at least one specific drugs. Off the market. Is this something that he's gonna get much push back from the pharmaceutical industry or from the drug stores. Current I don't think from the drug stores I think that armistice or thirty weigh on work with this because. They've already been incredibly helpful with trying to limit. The amount of these medications that dedication can go home with an itch and I want to tell you that as for perform surgery as someone who had surgery at the patients. Often times. You know this isn't real problem patient having surgery are given 455060. Perreault. You know in the short term post operative period we have better medications to treat back katic pain then OP Lloyd so I think that the removal of fat now off the market. You know which only be used at a hospital setting what it is safe and effective and appropriate. You know outpatient setting I agree with that at as a as a medical professional and I think. That we definitely need better option for patients who were dealing with acute or chronic pain DO POA are not the answer. Thanks so much Jan let's bring in Geneva sans she works with the justice team. Geneva you have been neck covering some of the frontlines of the open your prices with Pierre Thomas. Tell us about the night when stories you did last summer. That's very epidemic it's something that reaches all corners of the United States across the nation so we partnered with time. And our ABC affiliates to attract and quantify that scope of the crisis that was heading. Across the United States and one thing only found is that it's really hard to track in real time. That data. Overdose deaths of overdoses. State health departments and hospital association and bring and that information in all different kinds of Lee is. And that's one thing that health experts say could really make a difference is real time data tracking. And so we looked at across the US and like the first lady of the same. The thing that really stood out even more than shocking numbers in their numbers are incredibly high. Was the individual stories that we found during that week this summer. Their legs. Woman and her young. Early twining is she had just gotten out of rehab in Kentucky her family thought she was on generate track. And she stayed over at a friend's house ended up in the hospital. Her mother got a phone call saying you need to get here immediately. But it was too late she had died of an overdose of the heroin overdose. And her family spoke out that leak Tass and others. To. Science prevent the next case from happening. There is little girl in New Hampshire really young girl was clutching the photo of her father that had also died about her an overdose. She was left without a father. And in Miami at ten year old boy accidentally came in contact with heroin and it's those stories that really touching. As you say the First Lady said this could happen to any of us she said no state has been spared no demographic. Untouched by this. Mary Alice parks going back to you briefly here. I wonder this is something that is near and dear to the hearts of trump voters and there's a sense out there. That in places where there's been middle class or working class that's been left behind factory closures jobs shipped overseas. That people have in some of these communities turn to drugs and often with tragic result. It was really amazing how the president was able in one speech in a way to I don't think we've seen. Can do before talk about such a wide range of solutions. From international commerce to very. Intimate conversations that people can have with there friends and family. I really encouraging community leaders to step up to the plate here and you said it maybe some of the hardest hit areas a rural parts of the country. He was really imploring people to take a personal. A personal stake in this as well to sent to find a way to reach out to those that are hurting the most even if they're not. Medical professionals themselves I think is part of the reasons to go back to politics for a Sackett. Part of the reason he sought Democrats in that room too you know Joseph Manchin from West Virginia was sitting right there. There are Democrats I was following on Twitter who were applauding the president for this move so I think that but he he will continue to get high praise. The president also worked in there his talk of a border wall with Mexico. And Geneva I know that you spent time in Arizona near the Mexico border. And to what extent is that connected here to this overall problem. Still in Arizona that's where a lot of the traffickers. Bring their drugs and through Mexico. Lot of it's coming up through Mexico and DA tells us that Arizona Elway and then Carrey in the column mine for the rest of the country they see. Thousands of pounds of heroin coming through. Doses of fat not and then. In the upcoming lands there overdoses in the northeast in California. When we rarely went on one raid at that we found pounds of black tar heroin inside someone's home. And that alone it is that few handfuls that it was pounds could've provided thousands of individual doses worth millions of dollars on the street. All right. President trump says today that we can be the generation that ends hope BO it eviction we will see he has certainly put this on the radar screen. And his administration. Will be judged on the basis of this major piece domestic policy. That he pushed forward today. I'm David Wright with the ABC digital team you can. Continue to follow the story on world news and on Nightline and of course on the new ABC news' ethics for Jordan's.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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