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Portman Urges Trump To Officially Declare Opioid Crisis A National Emergency

Washington Post
Sen. Rob Portman (right from center) says Congress needs to act on longer term funding for the crisis.

During a live-streamed conversation at The Washington Post, Ohio's U.S. Sen. Rob Portman discussed the possibility of President Trump declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency.

Portman also acknowledged that he was not aware that a law passed last year limits the enforcement powers of the DEA. The Washington Post reports the law, known as the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, prevents the agency from freezing suspicious narcotics shipments, which was a powerful prevention method for the agency.

“Apparently it was unanimous consent in committee, unanimous consent on the floor,” Portman said. “But obviously that’s one of the issues that we need to re-look at, we need to go back and examine that. I did look this morning at what the DEA enforcement actions were around that time and they were significantly reduced before the legislation was passed.”

After the Washington Post’s investigation, Pennsylvania’s Rep. Tom Marino withdrew his name from consideration to be Trump’s new drug czar.

Portman is author of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which expands treatment and funding for people recovering from opioid abuse.

“If the agencies are all told by the top, ‘This is an epidemic,’ which it is, this is a national emergency, it will make a difference,” Portman said. “But Congress has to also view this as an emergency and that requires us to do a better job of providing longer term funding. And not just funding, it’s not a matter of throwing money at the issue, it’s a matter of finding what works.”

Portman's bill passed at about the same time as the DEA bill, but received a lot more attention and a traditional vote. 

Mitch Felan is a news intern for WKSU. He is a multimedia journalist with experience in print, television, radio and visual journalism. Felan is a junior at Kent State University, working towards a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Journalism. During the school year, Felan works for Kent State Student Media in TV2, The Kent Stater, and KentWired. He will be serving as the Digital Director for Kent State University's Student Media Newsroom in the Fall.