Local opioid expert skeptical of Trump’s emergency declaration

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – President Donald Trump has announced his plan to declare the opioid crisis a ‘national emergency’ and pledged to ramp up government efforts to combat it.

But not everyone working to fight the problem in West Michigan is convinced the declaration will have a positive impact.

“I’m a little skeptical, because it isn’t in line with the messages the administration has previously sent,” said Brandon Hool of The Grand Rapids Red Project.

The Red Project works to prevent overdoses and the spread of HIV, among other things. Hool said he has researched the opioid epidemic extensively and argued that it should be addressed as a health issue, not a criminal issue.

“The current administration, the attorney general specifically, seem to want to take a real heavy-handed law enforcement approach to drug use, which is, there’s not a whole lot of evidence to support that that’s going to work,” Hool said.

A drug commission convened by President Trump released a report that illustrates the worsening epidemic, noting that 142 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses.

Experts said the president’s declaration would allow the executive branch to direct funds towards expanding treatment facilities and supplying police officers with naloxone.

It could also expand the number of facilities where Medicaid recipients can seek addiction treatment.

Marvin Hamilton, who runs Clean and Sober Support (C.A.S.S.) hopes the declaration brings added attention to groups like his, which run entirely on donations.

“Now that it (the opioid crisis) is getting all this publicity, that’s good. We need that to get some help,” Hamilton said outside a C.A.S.S. meeting at the New Hope Baptist Church in Grand Rapids.

“I hope we put the money towards actually teaching people about it,” he said.

It’s still not entirely clear how the emergency funding will be spent. Trump still needs draw up documents to formalize the declaration.

Regardless, it won’t change the mission of groups like C.A.S.S. or The Red Project.

“Our community supports us, believes in what we’re doing. And we show them results for the money we get,” Hool said.