Trump declares 'public health emergency' to battle opioid crisis

Trump declares 'public health emergency' to battle opioid crisis

MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a 'public health emergency' Thursday.

"The fact is this is a world wide problem," Trump said during a ceremony in the White House East Room.

"Last year, we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses. That's 175 lost American lives per day. That's seven lost lives per hour in our country," Trump said.

"We're dealing with it here in Mississippi on daily basis," said Derryle Smith, Resident Agent in Charge-Gulfport Office with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, as of October 15, there have been 161 opioid overdose deaths in 2017.

"We've gone through the late eighties and nineties, with the Cocaine Cowboys in Miami," Smith said. "We evolved into the meth manufacturing, the 'mom and pop' labs and now to the prescription drug issues with the opioids. This is by far the worst that I've seen."

In April, the state received $3.58 million in federal funding to combat opioid addiction and overdose related deaths.  The State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Right now, MDEH is using some of that federal funding to host a number of Opioid Town Halls around the state.  To date, there have been 19 town halls with over 2,000 attendees.

"We've seen a 208% increase in opioid use disorder treatment admissions with our certified providers in the last three years, so it's becoming more and more of a community problem," Michael Jordan with the State Opioid Treatment Authority said during one of the town halls in Jones County.

The town halls include a number of state agencies and law enforcement personnel to educate the community on the "cost, death and destruction" of opioid use.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi)  issued the following statement after President Trump announced that he is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency:

"The opioid epidemic in this country has impacted nearly half of all Americans – a heartbreaking fact. With his actions today, President Trump is following through on his promise to fight this crisis and help American families heal."

"Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic," President Trump said.  "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it."