La. governor calls Trump's opioid declaration a 'good first star - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

La. governor calls Trump's opioid declaration a 'good first start,' says 'additional resources' needed

Source: WAFB Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB Source: WAFB

Putting pen to paper Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the country’s opioid crisis a "public health emergency." However, the actual impact of the declaration on Louisiana’s opioid fight remains unclear.

“We cannot allow this to continue. It’s time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” Trump said during the announcement at the White House.

Governor John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee were among those in attendance, there to participate in a listening session and a meeting with Acting Drug Czar Richard Baum.

Like in other communities across the country, drug-related deaths have skyrocketed in East Baton Rouge Parish in recent years. In 2012, there were 28 deaths tied to drugs across the parish, according to the EBR Coroner’s Office. By 2016, that total tripled to 89 deaths throughout the year.

So far in 2017, Coroner Beau Clark reports drugs are behind approximately 89 deaths across the parish, with two months left to go in the year.

RELATED: Coroner: Opioid overdoses resulted in more deaths than homicides in 2016

“It’s just been so long in the making. Addressing it will require all of our effort,” Trump said before a packed room at the White House, filled with governors from across the country.

Trump’s declaration allows Louisiana to move around some funds, redirecting them to fight the opioid epidemic. However, that could mean taking away money from other programs, including HIV prevention.

It also removes some bureaucratic red tape, making it easier to expand access to so-called telemedicine, which could help people in rural areas where healthcare is not always readily available. That was praised by the governor.

“If you can provide healthcare to that individual without them having to leave, then that healthcare’s more accessible and more meaningful,” he said.

There is, however, a major catch to the declaration. It does not include any new money to address the crisis. When asked if the president should have gone a step further by declaring a "national emergency," the governor responded saying, “Look, I'm not here to criticize what the president did today. It is a good start. I think it is better than taking no action at all.”

However, Edwards did admit that truly addressing the crisis will require “additional resources.” Getting those financial resources seemingly will require action from Congress, which reportedly already has bills on the docket to fund the opioid fight.

RELATED: Walgreens makes overdose antidote available without prescription

During his meetings at the White House Thursday, the governor said he did bring up the issue of Medicaid expansion. Edwards expanded Medicaid in the state through an executive order early in his term.

Trump supported numerous Obamacare rewrites that would have rolled back Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion. Edwards, meanwhile, said expansion has been a boon for the state’s battle against the crisis.

“We are trying to convince the president and the administration that leaving the Medicaid expansion in place is one effective tool in fighting this epidemic,” said Edwards.

Whether Trump will listen to the governor’s call remains to be seen.

RELATED STORIES: The opiate epidemic in East Baton Rouge Parish

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