Semantics matter: President Trump on Thursday will declare the opioid crisis a “public health emergency” but will stop short of the designation of a “national emergency.” The distinction affects what federal aid will be made available to states, reports the New York Times. Trump’s opioids panel recommended a national emergency designation, and the president himself used the term in August, but administration officials say the narrower public health emergency is better suited to the problem. The move will free up federal money for states and give them more flexibility in fighting the crisis by easing certain laws and Medicaid regulations, reports USA Today. Trump is expected to address the issue in a speech Thursday afternoon.
A designation of a national emergency would have given states other tools to fight the crisis, including access to the federal Disaster Relief Fund used in hurricanes and such, notes the Washington Post. However, White House officials say the designation isn’t a good fit for a long-term emergency. A law professor at Arizona State University tells USA Today that a “dual designation” would have been the best-case scenario, but that either designation is a good start. One aspect of the new designation will make it easier for states to take advantage of “telemedicine,” which involves the ability to prescribe treatments to patients remotely, notes Politico. That would be especially helpful to people in Appalachia or other rural areas where one-on-one visits with doctors are more difficult.