Trump declares opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history

The president calls the opioid epidemic, which kills nearly 100 people a day in the U.S., a "public health emergency."
3:51 | 10/26/17

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Transcript for Trump declares opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history
Meantime, president trump declaring war on the nation's open yoid crisis today, and offering a very personal story. But the president was careful with his words, calling it a, quote, public health emergency, and why the words he chose could determine how much money the government will spend to fight this. ABC's senior white house correspondent Cecilia Vega tonight. Reporter: With the stroke of a pen today, president trump declared the opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history. I am directing all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis. Reporter: The declaration means -- patients in rural areas can reach doctors and obtain prescriptions to treat addiction by phone or internet. Unemployed workers who lost their jobs because of addiction will receive job training and assistance. And it lifts bureaucratic red tape, allowing more funding for treatment centers in all 50 states. But the president stopped short of declaring a sweeping national emergency, something he has repeatedly promised. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money. Reporter: Today, he said something slightly different, calling it a public health emergency. That means his action does not include emergency federal money to address the crisis that kills nearly 100 people a day. For more than a year, ABC news followed families battling the effects of addiction. In New Hampshire, David sat down with Rory Smith, who found his son, Aaron, in their basement, overdosed. He was gray. I yelled for the phone, to call 911, and I proceeded to give him mouth to mouth. He was not breathing, and I couldn't feel a heartbeat. Can you tell me what that's like? It's probably the worst thing I've ever had to do in my life, was giving him mouth to mouth. I just -- I said, is this how it's all going to end? Right here, in my basement? Reporter: That time, they were able to revive Aaron, but after another overdose, he died. At his funeral, Kerry Norton, a nurse and advocate who tried to help Aaron, made this promise to his grieving father. I'm so sorry. I will fight for him. I promise you. Reporter: Late today, Kerry told us, the problem in new Hampshire has only gotten worse. People desperate for treatment, often having to wait weeks. Now, from president trump, a familiar call to action targeting young people with a just say no style ad campaign. If we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take them. Reporter: The president said his own wakeup call came from his older brother, Fred. Great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, "Don't drink." "Don't drink." He would say it over and over and over again. And to this day, I've never had a drink. And Cecilia Vega joining us from the white house. And Cecilia, it was deeply person, the president's story, but the white house is still facing tough questions tonight about whether the president's action today is an adequate response for a crisis of this magnitude. Reporter: David, this comes at a time when the health secretary here was fired for questions over his use of private jets. The drug czar recently resigned no replacement has been named. And tonight, Democrats are sounding the alarm about funding. Nancy Pelosi today said, show me the money. But David, as you know, the president, right there in that story, called this a winnable war. And of course, you checked back in with those families and we'll continue to do so on this crisis. Cecilia, thank you. We turn next here tonight to

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

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