Gov. John Bel Edwards and Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of LDH, attended a listening session at
the White House with President Trump on October 26 to discuss the growing opioid crisis. Also participating were Governors Bill Walker from Alaska, Chris Christie from New Jersey, Matt Bevin from Kentucky and others.
According to the press release, Gov. Edwards also met privately with Acting Drug Czar Richard
Baum to discuss drug and addiction trends in Louisiana, Gov. Edwards’ priorities related to
drug use, and opportunities to collaborate with the White House in the future.
Edwards praised a decision by Trump to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. President Trump indicated that he intended to file a lawsuit against opioid
manufacturers for their role in escalating the national crisis. In September, Gov. Edwards and
the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) filed a similar lawsuit.
“I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to this issue,” said Gov. Edwards. “This problem has escalated in Louisiana at a rapid pace, and we are taking action to combat the opioid crisis. The president’s declaration will put more tools at our disposal, and will allow us to help more Louisianans who’ve fallen victim to opioid abuse. This is going to take time, and my administration and I are committed to working with the Trump Administration to provide assistance to as many people as we can.”
According to the White House, declaring a public health emergency will mobilize additional federal resources, including:
• Allowing for expanded access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote
prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment,
• Helping overcome bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process, by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively to our Nation’s ongoing public health emergency,
• Allowing the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help workers who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis, subject to available funding, and
• Allowing for shifting of resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those
programs receive substance abuse treatment, which is important given the connection
between HIV transmission and substance abuse.