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Still Unclear What Trump’s Opioid State Of Emergency Means For States

Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the opioid crisis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

Over the last week, President Donald Trump has vacillated about how to handle the opioid epidemic that has wracked much of the U.S., including Pennsylvania.

After initially saying he wouldn’t declare a state of emergency, he did just that a few days later.

If the president declares a state of emergency, it typically means states will get some form of federal aid.

That can range from FEMA money becoming available, to Medicaid restrictions loosening to let more people access care, to Congress appropriating money for the cause.

Pennsylvania’s acting Drugs and Alcohol Secretary, Jennifer Smith, has her own preferences.

“What we’re hoping it means is access to some additional federal funding, and hopefully maybe some leniencies with existing regulations,” she said.

But she added, Pennsylvania officials—and those in other states—still don’t know exactly what’s going on.

“With this administration in general, it’s pretty commonplace to get an announcement of some sort and not get really clear or specific guidance,” she said.

Early in the week, Trump also expressed support for increasing incarceration for drug-related crimes.

Smith said whatever happens, Pennsylvanians shouldn’t expect major policy shifts on that front.

“In general, my personal opinion—and I believe the opinion of Governor Wolf—is that simply jailing people isn’t going to correct the problem,” she said. “What these people need is treatment.”