There's never been a National Health Emergency like the Opioid Crisis

Some are saying while they welcome the attention the president's declaration, more needs to be done.

TAMPA — President Trump took a first step Thursday in battling the opioid epidemic by declaring a public health emergency.

The White House says the issue is affecting communities of every race and income level. In fact, 140 Americans are dying each day from drug overdoses.

The declaration will streamline access to addiction treatment -- but it doesn't provide much in terms of new resources or money.

The federal government estimates combating the crisis costs $75 billion per year.

Many are saying the president's plan doesn't go far enough.

So will it?

We’re breaking down why this newly-designated health crisis is so hard to cure and ask does the announcement go far enough?

We've never seen a National Health Emergency like the opioid epidemic before. Let's take a look at another one that was designated by President Obama – the Zika outbreak.

With Zika, you know what you need to do. You focus on Puerto Rico and Florida. You spray for mosquitoes, you test for the virus, you put money into a vaccine to try and find a cure or a way to prevent it, and once you see that it's left the area your epidemic or crisis is over.

But you can't spray for the opioid epidemic. You can't vaccinate for addiction.

And that's why this is so different.

The people who need help getting better, the addicts, are all over the United States and there are so many more players.

There are sheriff's offices and first responders, municipalities and the addicts themselves who can sometimes take years to get better.

So, that's why the two people that we talked to who have firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis had this to say when we asked, “Is it enough?”

“I think we need to take it more seriously,” said Cindy Grant. Her son Dan died in 1997 at 19 years old after overdosing on Oxycotin.

“I mean I always think that you can do more, but I definitely think it's a step in the right direction,” said Jessica Zeilman. She overdosed on heroin three years ago and now is helping others to recover.

Trump is cutting some red tape and more lifesaving anti-overdose drugs may be hitting the streets.

But Grant says there's more to keep in mind since no new money is being allocated to solve the opioid crisis.

“I love that it's been called a national epidemic and that we are seeing more attention brought to it,” she said. “But we need to make sure that we're looking across the entire spectrum. It'd be shortsighted us to forget prevention on the front-end too.”

And while the health designation may not have all of the answers, Jessica, who almost died because of her opioid addiction says it's still so meaningful.

“So, I feel like shining a light on it to be able to come together and make a difference is absolutely a great start.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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