Trump’s plan for the opioid epidemic is a start, but that’s all it is

President Donald Trump gestures after giving his speech at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The opioid problem in this country is not a secret. The issue has been growing in magnitude for years and people are readily aware of its existence. Unlike other issues such as the environment and abortion rights, one thing Americans seem able to agree on is the need for a reduction in the number of opioid-related deaths that occur each year. However, despite being able to agree on this issue, we are still unsure of how exactly to accomplish this goal.

The opioid crisis in our country is not a new problem and has been growing steadily worse for years. Currently, however, reports show that over the past six months, deaths from drug overdoses in our country have actually been falling, rather than continuing on the upward trend they were on. This is great news for our country, but this data should also be taken with a grain of salt. While overdose deaths may be decreasing, we are not sure of the reason behind this decline. It is clearly a positive that the number is going down, but being in this unknown place means we have to be very careful with how we proceed. If we become too comfortable with the fact that our country seems to be making a very slight recovery, we may become complacent and allow this crisis to begin worsening again.

This past Wednesday, President Trump took us, hopefully, one small step closer to making greater improvements possible by signing the Support for Patients and Communities Act. This legislation is a collection of measures that aims to “boost access to addiction treatment and many other interventions to mitigate the opioid epidemic”. This, of course, sounds great in theory. The idea that signing a bill and passing new regulations will immediately help the opioid crisis would obviously be ideal. Of course, it is never that easy.

This bill sounds great on paper, but of course has some flaws. Mainly, when it comes to the opioid crisis, the problem boils down to money, and unfortunately there still won’t be enough money even with the new legislation in place. Trump claims that his bill will increase funding to fight opioids by six billion dollars, a hefty sum which he claims is “the most money ever received in history”. Regardless of the truth of that statement and Trump’s constant desire to make himself seem greater than everyone who has preceded him, the truth is that six billion dollars still isn’t enough. While, sure, every little bit helps in the fight against the opioid crisis, many experts are saying that the nation actually needs funding closer to 100 billion dollars in order to make the kind of impact that Trump is hoping for. So while six billion may still be a pretty large number, it is only six percent of what some people estimate is needed to actually help this crisis our country is in.

Typically, I am one to be extremely skeptical of any move Trump makes, and that mentality still applies to his latest decision. However, so far it seems that the results of this bill will not be outwardly bad. Again, the issue lies mostly in the fact that the response of the White House is simply not enough to “put a big dent” in the opioid crisis as they hope to do. Still, I guess it is a positive that there doesn’t seem to be any harm done by the new legislation.

While still unsettled by the fact I am not outwardly complaining about Trump through this column, I still caution our country on how to proceed. We are at a very delicate place currently, where we seem to be teetering on the edge of either beginning to recover from a crisis, or fall into a devastating relapse. While the legislation recently passed may be a small step in the right direction, that is all it is. We need more than just a step—we need a full-on leap in the right direction in order to ensure our country fully enters recovery from the opioid crisis, and unfortunately that’s not what we have yet.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.